We all have a headache sometime or the other. Migraine is severe headache accompanied by other symptoms. It is a very common disease and is curable. Migraine can happen to people of any age. You would have heard about it or experienced it. Let us see what exactly is migraine, it’s symptoms and how it can be cured.
Migraine is a neurological condition which is accompanied by multiple symptoms. Intense and debilitating headaches characterize it. Migraine causes nausea, difficulty in speaking, vomiting, numbness and sensitivity to sound and light. Migraines can affect entire family and people of all age groups. The most common category of migraine is of two types. The first type is migraine without aura. It was previously known as common migraine. The second type is migraine with aura. It was previously known as classic migraine. Women are more likely to have migraine than men.
Symptoms of migraine
Migraine symptoms can begin few days before the headache triggers. This period is known as the prodrome stage. This stage shows the symptoms of fatigue or low energy, food cravings, frequent yawning, depression, irritability, hyperactivity and stiffness in the neck.
In migraine with aura, the aura happens just after the prodrome phase. An aura is accompanied with problems in sensation, vision, speech and movement. The problems are described as
- Feeling a pricking sensation in face, arms or legs
- Seeing shapes, bright spots or light flashes
- Difficulty in speaking clearly
- Losing vision temporarily
The next phase is the attack phase. This is the most severe of all the phases where the actual migraine pain happens. The attack phase may overlap or occur during an aura. The symptoms of this phase can last from hours to days. They can vary from person to person. The symptoms of attack phase include
- Dizziness or fainting
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Pulsing and throbbing head pain
- Pain on one side of the head, either on right side, left side, front, back or in temples
The postdrome phase happens after the attack phase. In this phase, a person will have changes in feelings and mood. The feelings can range from positive to negative. A person may be extremely happy and feel euphoric. At the same time, that person may become pathetic and fatigued. Mild headache may persist after this phase.
The duration and intensity of prodrome phase, attack phase and postdrome phase differ in all people. The extent to which they occur is not same for all people. A phase can skip sometimes while migraine attack may happen without causing a headache.
The pain of migraine is described to be throbbing, pulsating, pounding, perforating and debilitating. Migraine may feel like a dull and steady ache. Initially the pain may be mild but it can become severe without treatment. Migraine pain commonly affects the forehead area. It usually occurs on one side of the head but it may even occur on both sides. Migraine pain can shift from one side to the other side. Usually migraines last for nearly four hours. They can last till one week if they are not treated or do not respond to any treatment. In migraines with aura, the migraine pain can overlap with an aura or it may not occur at all.
Nausea is the most common symptom that people getting migraines face. Most of the people also vomit. These symptoms start when the headache starts. They usually occur one hour after the headache. Nausea and vomiting trouble just like the headache. If you have only nausea, then you can take the medicines for migraine. But if you have vomiting, then you may not be able to take the medicines. It is because vomiting does not allow medicines to be absorbed in your body. Vomiting may cause migraine to become severe.
Treating nausea while preventing vomiting
If you have nausea but do not have vomiting, then you can take medicines for easing nausea. These medicines are known as anti-nausea or anti-emetic drugs. These drugs can prevent vomiting and cure the nausea. Acupressure may also help in treating migraine nausea. Acupressure can act on migraine nausea in few hours.
Treating both nausea and vomiting
Usually doctors prefer to ease the symptoms of nausea and vomiting by treating the migraine itself. If migraine comes with too much of nausea and vomiting, then preventive medicines can be taken for that.
Doctors diagnose migraines by following a procedure. They know the symptoms of patients, take a thorough medical and family history and perform a physical test to rule out other potential causes. Imaging scans like CT (Computed Tomography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can rule out the other causes. They can be abnormal brain structures, tumors and stroke.
Migraine cannot be cured completely but it can be managed in order to get them less frequently. The symptoms caused by migraine can be treated. Treatment can make the migraines less severe.
The migraine treatment plan depends on
- Age of the patient
- How often migraine occurs
- The type of migraine
- The severity of migraine
- Whether the migraine includes nausea or vomiting or other symptoms
- Health conditions and medicines taken by the patient
The treatment plan may include a combination of
- Self-care migraine remedies
- Adjustments in lifestyle including avoidance of migraine triggers and stress management
- Over the Counter (OTC) pain or migraine medicines, like Acetaminophen or NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Migraine medicines that have been prescribed for preventing migraines and reducing their effect
- Migraine medicines that have been prescribed for headache, to reduce its severity
- Medicines for curing nausea and vomiting
- Hormone therapy if migraines occur in relation to a patient’s menstrual cycle
- Alternative care which includes acupressure, meditation, acupuncture and biofeedback
You can try few migraine remedies at home. They decrease the pain from migraines. They include
- Massaging scalp and temples
- Lying down in a quiet and dark room
- Placing a cold cloth over forehead or behind neck
Some herbal remedies are also carried out for relieving migraines.
Causes of migraine
Changes in brain chemicals like a decrease in levels of serotonin which is the brain chemical. Factors that trigger a migraine are
- Severe heat or extreme weather conditions
- Bright light
- Changes in barometric pressure
- Excess stress
- Hormonal changes in women such as progesterone and oestrogen fluctuations during menstruation, menopause or pregnancy
- Intense physical activity
- Loud sound
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Skipping meals
- Unusual smells
- Usage of certain medications like oral contraceptives
- Particular food items
- Drinking alcohol
Food items which trigger migraine
Certain food ingredients are more likely to trigger migraine. They include
- Food additives – Nitrates which is a preservative in cured meats, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), Aspartame which is an artificial sugar
- Alcohol or caffeinated drinks
- Tyramine which is naturally present in some foods
Tyramine increases when food items are aged or fermented. This is applicable to foods like cheese, soy sauce and sauerkraut.
Medicines for migraine
Medicines are taken either to prevent migraine or to treat it after it occurs. Over the Counter (OTC) medicines give some relief from migraine.