A migraine is a severe, painful headache that is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring, could last up to hours or even days. The headache is mainly focused on one particular side of the head.
There is not an exact cause for migraines, however many believe that a migraine is caused because of the abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain. When the levels of these substances increase, they can cause inflammation; this inflammation then causes blood vessels to swell and press on nearby nerves, causing immense pain. Genes may also contribute to migraines; those who have migraines may have abnormal genes that control the function of certain brain cells.
Many people with migraines tend to have attacks triggered by:
- Lack of sleep/ Or excessive sleep
- Skipped meals
- Excessive caffeine
- Foods that contain nitrates (hot dogs)
- Foods that contain tyramine (aged cheese, soy products)
Those who have constant migraines, on a daily basis, keep a migraine diary. So in your diary you would include, what day you have the migraine, the time when your migraine started, where you were and what you were doing when the migraine started, whether you’re having your period at that time. This information helps the doctor to advise you about what sets off your headache, and to help find the right solution for you.
There are two types of migraines, migraines with aura, and migraines without aura. When you have a migraine with aura might have these sensory symptoms:
- Flashing lights
- Numbness or tingling in your hands
- Feeling mentally “weird or fuzzy”
However only one in five people who get migraine experience an aura, women have this form of aura more than men. Migraines have no cure, but migraines can be managed by a doctor’s help. Producing a migraine diary you and your doctor could work together to find ways to treat migraine symptoms when they occur, as well as ways to help make your migraines less frequent and severe. Drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen relieve mild migraine pain for some people. If these drugs do not work your doctor might want you to try a prescription drug. Two classes of drugs that doctors often try first are:
- Ergot derivatives (this drug works in a similar way as triptans, however they should not be used if you have heart disease or a high blood pressure
There are also some lifestyle changes you could do to reduce the number of migraine attacks, such as:
- Avoid or limit triggers
- Eat healthy food and do not skip meals
- Engage in regular physical activities
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
- Learn various ways to reduce and limit stress