What is migraine?
A migraine is characterized by an excruciating pulsating headache followed by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sound and smells. A migraine can last for several hours and sometimes even for days.
If you get three or more headaches every week, and you need to take painkillers almost everyday for the headaches, you need to consult your family physician or a general physician
How is migraine caused?
Migraine is usually one sided, though children experience it on both sides of their head.
The root cause of a migraine still remains a mystery. The researchers and doctors do not have clear answers as to why migraines occur, but potential theories of the causes include:
drinking a large amount of alcohol
certain medications such as sleeping pills, contraceptive pills
nervous system disorder
blocked or irregular blood vessels, and circulatory system
abnormalities in the brain chemicals
irregular blood sugar levels
missing a meal
- certain foods items such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine can trigger migraine in some persons
What can make you prone to migraines?
Some causes of migraine typical to Indian patients are:
applying mehendi to hair
taking bath with cold water
long exposure to the sun
hot and humid summer weather
- tooth pain
What are the symptoms of migraine? How is it diagnosed?
Generally migraines have a pattern. Migraine attacks go through 4 different stages. However some people may not experience all the four stages.
There are usually warning signs that appear before a migraine occurs. This period is called Prodrome. The warning signs which occur a day or two before the migraine include:
loss of appetite
mood swings from depression to ecstatic
sensitivity to light and sound
The next stage is called Aura which are symptoms of the nervous system. During this stage you may feel as if someone is touching you, or feel your muscles growing weak. You may also experience motor ( movement ) or speech disturbances. Aura symptoms may appear 5 - 20 minutes before a migraine and builds up to last from 30 - 60 minutes.
Some common aura symptoms include:
difficulty while speaking
hearing humming noises, rhythmic sounds or music
sudden uncontrollable jerking movements
seeing flashes of light, bright spots or shadows and shapes
sudden vision loss for few minutes
pins and needles sensations in arms or legs
weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
mild temporary paralysis on one side of the body
The third stage is when the migraine attack takes place. An attack can last from 1 hour to 72 hours. The attack is characterized by:
severe almost traumatic throbbing pain on one side of the head. In some people it may also occur on both sides of the head.
nausea and vomiting may occur in some people
sensitivity to light, smell, touch, and sounds
loss of appetite
The final stage known as Postdrome occurs after the migraine attack. After the attack some people feel elated and active. In some others though the following symptoms may appear:
sensitivity to light, sound and touch
In most people migraines remain undiagnosed, as it is brushed off as a severe headache.
You need to see a doctor immediately if you experience:
severe, throbbing headache
weakness and Numbness
pulsating headache after a head injury
sudden severe headaches for long periods after the age of 50
A doctor will diagnose you with migraine, on the basis of your personal medical history, family’s medical history, symptoms, your lifestyle and after performing physical and neurological exams which include, testing your strength, reflexes, co-ordination, and your short term memory.
The doctor may also suggest some other tests such as Blood tests, MRI, CT scan, and Spinal Tap to rule out the possibilities of any other disorder.
What are the complications of migraine?
The complications of migraine if left untreated are:
long lasting migraines ( upto 72 hours) which may require hospitalization
a stroke due to bleeding in the brain
symptoms of the Aura stage can last for upto a week
- mental health issues such as, bi-polar disorder, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and substance abuse.
What is the treatment for migraine?
Research suggests that regular and moderate exercise can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
Yoga, or mild regular aerobic exercises, or exercises such as jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling, and brisk walking can greatly benefit you if you suffer from migraines. It is important that you choose a form of exercise you enjoy and are comfortable with.
A word of caution however, strenuous exercises may provoke a migraine attack. This may lead you to believe that exercising causes migraine. If you experience a headache or migraine after exercising it is probably because:
you did not take sufficient fluids before and during exercising
you did not eat enough before exercising which may have caused your blood sugar levels to drop
you started exercising suddenly, without prior planning thus raising the demand for oxygen in your body
you are doing strenuous exercises which can cause migraine attack
For treating migraine, doctors may prescribe you oral medications, or nasal sprays.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Specialists for Migraine
Did you know?
Women are more prone than men
Women are three times more prone to migraine attacks than men. One in four women has had a migraine. It has also been observed that women who experience frequent migraines are also more likely to suffer from heart problems
Occurs during hormonal changes to the body
Most of the time it is seen that adolescents experience migraines, probably due to the bodily and hormonal changes that occur during puberty. 15% of these people in whom migraine is recurring experience it in the same side of the head.
Frequency of attacks
8% of migraineurs suffer from 1-12 attacks each year. 38% of them experience it 1-3 times a month. 37% experience an attack once every week per week, and 11% experience 2-6 attacks a week.
Some quick stats
25% of the women and 8% men experience migraine at least once in their life.
Half of these people experience their first migraine before the age of 20.
98% of them experience it before the age of 50.
5% experience migraines for the first time between the ages of 5-15 years.
What helps one person with migraine may have no effect for someone else. But still there are certain guidelines which might pacify your migraine symptoms.
Everybody encounters stress. Our bodies are intended to feel stress and respond to it. It keeps us ready and prepared to maintain a strategic distance from risk.
Migraine is a condition that causes attacks (episodes) of headaches. Other symptoms such as feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting) are also common.