A migraine is a severe headache that tends to recur with symptoms like nausea and vomiting. The pain is usually on one side of the head and there is an added sensitivity to bright lights and noises. Moving around can make the headaches feel worse. Although, there are many forms of migraine headaches, classic and common are the two major varieties. People with migraines are called migraineurs.
About 15% of the population is affected by migraines. Three times more women than men are affected. Over 80% of migraineurs have family members who are regularly afflicted with migraines. Prominently migraines are of three types. They are:
Migraine without aura (common migraine): Accounting for 80% of all migraine headaches, no aura is seen before this common migraine affects an individual.
Migraine with aura (classic migraine): Usually preceded by an aura, this type of migraine is generally much worse than a common migraine. Usually, an aura is said to be a visual disturbance, that is, outlines of lights or jagged light images.
Status migrainosus: Generally, a long-lasting migraine, it does not go away by itself.
Causes of Migraine headaches
The medical fraternity thinks that the migraines are caused by a chemical or electrical problem in certain parts of the brain. A key element of a migraine headache is blood flow change in the brain. According to hypothesis, the nervous system responds to a trigger such as stress by creating spasms in the nerve-rich arteries at the base of the brain. The spasms constrict several arteries supplying blood to the brain, including arteries from the scalp and the neck. As these arteries tighten, the flow of blood to the brain is reduced. At the same time, platelets clump together and release a chemical called serotonin which also acts as a powerful constrictor of arteries. This further reduces blood and oxygen supply to the brain. In reaction to this, some arteries in the brain expand to meet the brain’s energy needs. This dilation is believed to cause migraine headaches . Because, migraine headaches tend to run in families, it can be assumed that genetic factors may also contribute to a person’s susceptibility to migraines.
Headache triggers can be things that are eaten, smelt, heard or seen. They are:
· Stress and time pressure, major hassles and losses, anger and conflict
· Smells and fumes, tobacco smoke, light glare or dazzle and weather changes
· Monthly periods, birth control pills, estrogen therapy and too much, too little or interrupted sleep
· Hunger, fasting and specific foods or beverages
· Excessive activity
· Certain medications
Certain foods that might trigger a migraine:
· Aged Cheese
· Bananas, figs and raisins
· Beer, wine and hard liquor
· Caffeine as well as caffeine withdrawal and chocolates
· Dairy products such as ice cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, whipped cream and sour cream
· Fermented and pickled foods
· Monosodium glutamate (MSG), seasoned salt, canned soups, TV dinners, processed meats, and some processed nuts and snack chips
· Most citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and lemons
· Nuts and peanuts
· Pea pods or lima beans
· Processed meats, deli sandwich meats, hotdogs and other nitrite-containing meats
· Saccharin or aspartame in diet foods or diet sodas and drinks
· Sulfites in shrimp and processed potatoes, like boxed mashed potato mix
· Yeast-containing products, such as fresh breads and donuts
Medicines that might trigger a migraine headache are:
· Cimetidine (brand name: Tagamet)
· Estrogens (including birth control pills)
· Fenfluramine (brand name: Pondimin)
· Indomethacin (brand name: Indocin)
· Nifedipine (brand name: Adalat, Procardia)
· Nitroglycerin (brand name: Nitrostat)
· Pain killers (either overuse or withdrawal from them)
· Reserpine containing medicines (brand names: Ser-ap-Es, Hydropres, Regroton)
· Theophylline (brand name: TheoDur, Theo-24)
Having ridden the migraine train on several occasions, you may have an aura the acts like a warning whistle of the approaching headache. The pain builds slowly and steadily until you are in no position to tolerate the bright light and loud noises. You may even feel nauseated or end up vomitting. Lying down in a dark, quiet room is the only means that will help you ride it out.
While scientists still debate the exact mechanisms in the brain that cause migraines, there progress has helped them find treatment medications that may either be taken as soon as a migraine comes on or taken on a daily basis to help prevent migraines.
This guide will help you weigh the pros and cons of a variety of treatments, to help determine the best course of action for your migraine.
Although, much can be done to prevent the onset of migraines like avoid triggers, exercise regularly and keep stress under control — most people with migraines will need medication. Providentially, medication options for migraines have expanded greatly in the last decade which helps keep migraine disruption to a minimum.
Migraine medications can be divided into two broad categories of migraine treatment . They are:
· Acute - Taken after the onset of a migraine
· Preventive – Taken every day to ward off migraines
· Various nontraditional and emerging therapies may be helpful in some cases, too