A migraine is a throbbing or pulsating headache which occurs mostly on one side. Most people who have this condition experience repeated attacks of headache for many years. This article provides information about the various symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment options available for this condition.
A migraine is a very painful type of unilateral headache. A person affected by this usually feels nauseated and feels like vomiting. During a bout of attack, patients develop high sensitivity towards light and sound, and are extremely irritated. The occurrence depends on a number of factors such as age, gender, and type of migraine one suffers from. About 20% people in the US experience this headache at some point in their life. Mostly women are affected by this condition, probably because of the female hormones.
Migraine headaches are known to be caused due to changes in the level of serotonin, a brain chemical. High and low serotonin levels affect the blood vessels differently. When the serotonin levels are high, blood vessels constrict, whereas when they fall, the blood vessels tend to swell. This condition develops when serotonin levels are low. Fluctuation in the serotonin levels also depends on the level of blood sugar, or estrogen in the case of women.
Alterations in sleeping pattern and insomnia are also known to trigger these headaches. Excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and dehydration affects the level of serotonin. People taking medications to treat physical and emotional stress also suffer from migraine headaches occasionally. For some people, climatic changes, use of perfumes, or any other odor triggers this condition. Food substances that contain tyramine also aggravate the condition in some people.
Symptoms vary depending upon the severity of this condition. In most cases, people get a premonition, and some describe it as a signal sent by the body to the brain, hours before they occur. Following is a list of possible symptoms of this condition.
- Feeling of intense energy followed by fatigue
- Sweet food cravings
- Intense throbbing or dull pain on one side of the head
- Nausea, vomiting, or both
- Irritation with light, sound, and odors
- Blurred or spotted vision
- Sleeplessness and anxiety
- Fever with the headache
Maintaining a record of when and how the migraine occurred, will help one recognize a pattern. Once the irritants are identified, they can be easily removed or managed. It is important to stay active by eating healthy food and exercising regularly. Yoga is particularly useful, as it helps to reduce stress and induce peaceful sleep. Medical practitioners often prescribe preventive medicines such as beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, or tricyclic antidepressants.
Abortive therapy is a form of treatment used to prevent a migraine attack, or to stop it once it has started. The most commonly prescribed headache-relieving medications are listed below:
- Triptans: Triptans are effective in relieving headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light.
- Ergots: They provide relief, but are considered to be less effective than triptans.
- Anti-Nausea: It helps elevate the symptoms of nausea, and at times stops vomiting
- Opiates: Opiates are prescribed to those patients who don’t react well to triptans or ergots. However, they are only prescribed in serious cases, as they are highly-addictive drugs.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID): NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin are prescribed to treat mild cases of migraine.
Medicines can not only help prevent migraine attacks, but also help relieve symptoms as they happen. Alternative treatments like yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc., have also helped a lot of people to effectively prevent and manage these headaches. All migraine-reliving medications should be taken only after consulting your doctor. The doctor after a complete diagnosis on the type and severity of the condition prescribes appropriate medication.