By Medicover Hospitals / 17 Feb 2021
A migraine can cause a severe stabbing pain or throbbing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It often involves nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours or days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. For some people, a warning sign known as an aura happens before or with a headache. An aura can include visual disturbances, like flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances, like tingling on one side of the face or arm or leg, and difficulty speaking.
- What Is Migraine?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home Remedies
What Is Migraine?
A migraine is a certain type of headache that is severe, persistent, and often occurs with other symptoms, like sensitivity to sound and light.
Migraines are thought to result from abnormal brain activity that causes constriction and dilation or widening of the arteries in the brain. This process results in the classic symptoms of migraine which include:
Migraines are often, but not always, triggered by one or more specific substances or situations. These triggers vary from person to person and typically include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensory disturbances
- Severe, throbbing headache that lasts from several hours to several days
The patient's adherence to a good treatment plan can control migraine symptoms to a degree that allows them to lead a normal, active life. Treatment plans include medication and avoiding substances and situations that can trigger a migraine.
Sometimes migraines can be so severe that they are disabling and cause serious disruption to work, school, relationships, and social activities. See a doctor promptly if you experience symptoms of migraine, such as nausea and vomiting, and severe, throbbing headaches.
Symptoms of migraine can also mimic symptoms of more serious conditions, such as stroke, meningitis, or retinal detachment. See a doctor immediately if you or someone you are with has a stiff neck and fever or sensory disturbances, such as numbness or changes in vision.
- Aged foods like cheese
- Red wine
- Suddenly hot weather
Types of Migraine:
There are different types of migraines. A major distinguishing factor is whether they involve an aura or sensory changes.
Migraine with Aura:
The aura is a disturbance of the senses in the early stages of an episode. This can serve as a warning that a migraine is approaching. Aura can involve:
- having confusing thoughts or experiences
- seeing weird, twinkling, or flashing lights that aren't there
- see zigzag lines of light
- have blind spots or white spots in vision
- feeling tingling and needles in an arm or leg
- have difficulty speaking
- have weakness in the shoulders, neck, or limbs
- seeing things that are not there with one eye, such as transparent chains of objects
- not being able to see part of something
- remove part of the field of view, then reappear
- an aura may seem similar to the sensation that follows exposure to a very bright camera flash, but visual changes can last for several minutes or up to an hour.
Migraine without aura:
More commonly, a person does not experience any sensory disturbance before an episode. According to the Migraine Trust, 70 to 90% of episodes occur without aura.
Other types of migraine include:
- Chronic Migraine: This involves having an episode for more than 15 days per month.
- Menstrual Migraine: This happens in a pattern that follows the menstrual cycle.
- Hemiplegic migraine: This type causes temporary weakness on one side of the body.
- Abdominal migraine: These are episodes of migraine related to the irregular function of the bowel and abdomen, often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. It mainly affects children under the age of 14.
- Vestibular migraine: Severe dizziness is a symptom of this form of migraine.
- Basilar migraine: This rare type is also known as a migraine with brainstem aura and can affect neurological functions, such as speech.
- While the causes of migraine are not fully understood, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role.
- Changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway, could be involved. The same goes for imbalances in brain chemicals - including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system.
- Researchers are studying the role of serotonin in migraines. Other neurotransmitters play a role in migraine pain, including the peptide linked to the calcitonin gene (CGRP).
There are migraine triggers, including:
- Hormonal changes in women: Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women. Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, can also make migraines worse. However, some women find that their migraines occur less often when taking these medications.
- Drinks: These include alcohol, especially wine, and too much caffeine, such as coffee.
- Stress: Stress at work or home can cause migraines.
- Sensory stimuli: Bright lights and glare from the sun can cause migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells, including perfume, paint thinner, second-hand smoke, and others trigger migraines in some people.
- Sleep changes: Not getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep, or jet lag can trigger migraines in some people.
- Physical factors: Heavy physical exertion, including sexual activity, can cause migraines.
- Weather changes: A change in weather or barometric pressure can cause a migraine.
- Medication: Oral contraceptives and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin, can make migraines worse.
- Foods: Aged cheeses and salty and processed foods can trigger migraines. The same goes for skipping meals or fasting.
- Food additives: These include the sweetener aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which are found in many foods.
Several factors make you more vulnerable to migraines, including:
- Family history: If you have a family member with migraines, you have a good chance of developing them as well.
- Age: Migraines can start at any age, although the first often occurs in adolescence. Migraines tend to peak in your 30s and gradually become less severe and less frequent over the following decades.
- Gender: Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines compared to men.
- Hormonal changes: For women who have migraines, the headaches may start right before or shortly after the start of their period. They can also change during pregnancy or menopause. Migraines usually get better after menopause.
Your healthcare professional can diagnose migraines by asking you questions about your symptoms and family history of migraines. A complete physical exam will be done to determine if your headache is due to muscle tension, sinus problems, or a brain disorder.
There is no specific test to prove that your headache is a migraine. In most cases, no special testing is necessary. Your healthcare professional may order a brain scan or MRI if you have never had one before. The test may also be ordered if you have any unusual symptoms with your migraine, including weakness, memory problems, or loss of alertness.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be needed to rule out seizures. A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) can be done.
Migraines cannot cure, but your doctor can help you manage them so that you get them less often and treat symptoms when they occur. Treatment can also help make migraines less severe.
Your treatment plan depends on:
Your treatment plan may include a combination of these elements:
- your age
- how often you have migraines
- the type of migraine you have
- how severe they are, depending on how long they last, how much pain you feel, and how often they prevent you from going to school or work
- if they include nausea or vomiting, and other symptoms
- other health problems you may have and other medicines you may take
- self-healing migraine remedies
- lifestyle adjustments, including stress management and avoiding migraine triggers
- Over-the-counter pain or migraine medications, such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- prescription migraine medications that you take every day to help prevent migraines and reduce the frequency of headaches
- prescription migraine medications that you take when a headache first appears to keep it from getting worse and to relieve symptoms
- prescription drugs to relieve nausea or vomiting
- hormone therapy if migraines seem to be happening in connection with your menstrual cycle)
- alternative care, which may include biofeedback, meditation, acupressure, or acupuncture
When to visit a Doctor?
Sometimes headaches can signal a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor about your headache if:
- You have several headaches per month, and each one lasts several hours or days
- Your headaches are interfering with your life at home, at work, or at school
- You have nausea, vomiting, vision, or other sensory problems (like numbness or tingling)
- You have pain around your eyes or ears
- You have a severe headache with a stiff neck
- You have a headache with confusion or loss of alertness
- You have a headache with seizures
- You have a headache after a blow to the head
- Before you didn't have a headache, but now you have a lot of headaches
There is no cure for migraines. But you can take an active role in reducing your migraine frequency and severity by following these tips:
- Keep a migraine diary. Take notes on any foods and other triggers that you think may have caused you a migraine. Change your diet and avoid known triggers as much as possible.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep at night.
- Eat at regular intervals. Don't skip meals.
- To drink a lot of water.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Learn stress control techniques such as meditation, yoga, relaxation, or mindful breathing.
- Take your medications as directed by your doctor.
- If you think your migraine is related to your menstrual cycle, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy.
- Consider trying a transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation device. This battery-powered electrical stimulator is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent migraines. The device, worn like a headband, emits electrical charges through the forehead. The load stimulates the nerve, which transmits some pain experienced during a migraine.
Natural remedies are a medication-free way to reduce migraine symptoms. These home treatments can help prevent migraines or at least help reduce their severity and duration.
Here are some natural ways to reduce migraine symptoms:
- Diet change: Diet plays a vital role in preventing migraines. Many foods and drinks are known triggers for migraine, such as:
- Foods with nitrates including hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, and sausage
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer
- Very cold foods such as ice cream or iced drinks
- Processed foods
- Pickled foods
- Dried fruits
- Cultured dairy products such as buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt
- Apply lavender oil: Inhaling lavender essential oil can relieve migraine pain.
- Try acupressure: Acupressure involves applying pressure with your fingers and hands to specific points on the body to relieve pain and other symptoms.
- Apply peppermint oil: The study found that applying a menthol solution to the forehead and temples was more effective than a placebo for the associated pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light. to migraine.
- Go for Ginger: Ginger is known to relieve nausea caused by many conditions, including migraines. It can also have other benefits for migraines.
- Try biofeedback: Biofeedback is a method of relaxation. It teaches you to control the autonomic reactions to stress. Biofeedback can be helpful for migraines triggered by physical reactions to stress such as muscle tension.
- Add Magnesium to Your Diet: Magnesium deficiency is linked to headaches and migraines. Studies show that magnesium oxide supplementation helps prevent migraine headaches with aura. It can also prevent migraine headaches associated with menstruation. You can get magnesium from foods that include:
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Brazil nut
- Cashew nut
- Peanut Butter
- Book a massage: A weekly massage can reduce the frequency of migraines and improve the quality of sleep. Research suggests that massage improves perceived stress and coping skills. It also helps reduce heart rate, anxiety, and cortisol levels.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Migraines have the potential to be more serious. Migraines can be debilitating, but for some people who experience auras with their headaches, they could be a marker of more danger - an increased risk of stroke.
There are many migraine triggers such as hormonal changes in women, fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women.
At the first sign of a migraine, take a break and get away from whatever you're doing if possible.
- Turn the lights off. Migraines often increase sensitivity to light and sound.
- Try temperature therapy. Apply hot or cold compresses to your head or neck.
- Drink a drink that contains caffeine.
Whether it's a regular tension headache or a migraine, caffeine can help. This is why it is an ingredient in many popular pain relievers. This can make them up to 40% more efficient. Sometimes you can stop the pain in its tracks just by taking caffeine alone.
Surgical treatment of migraine headaches - https://headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1526-4610.2003.03062_8.x
Migraine in Women - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0733861909000036
Migraines with and without aura - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-2982.2009.01999.x