Migraine has become increasingly common in the 21st century. So, it is essential to know as much about what is migraine as we can. More information will help us deal with the issue.
What is a Migraine?
Migraine may cause intense pain or a pulsing feeling on the side of the head. Usually, the patient becomes sensitive to sound and light. He or she also feels nauseous and vomits.
A throbbing headache also characterizes it. An attack of Migraine causes the pain to last for several hours. It may even continue for days. Migraine patients complain that the pain is severe enough to be crippling. The medicines may initially reduce the pain and eventually treat it.
The patient needs to consult a doctor about alternative treatment if conventional medications do not bring any relief. The patients may also need to introduce changes to their lifestyle. The right drug, along with a changed lifestyle, may be useful in curing Migraines. It is crucial to find out the details about this painful disease. The details will prepare us to counteract Migraines.
What are the Symptoms of Migraine?
There is no fixed age during which Migraine may occur. Adolescents, early adults, and even children may be affected by this painful disease. Migraine has four stages, and each step has different symptoms. The four steps are as follows:
A patient may not experience all four stages.
Prodrome: A patient may experience a few subtle health-related changes, one or two days before a migraine attack. These health-related changes warn the patient about an upcoming migraine attack. The symptoms of prodrome are as follows:
- Craving for food
- A patient feels more thirsty than usual.
- Neck becomes stiff
- Mood swings ranging from depression to delight
- Frequent yawning
- The patient experiences more urge to urinate.
What is Migraine With Aura?
It is a symptom of the nervous system. It may get manifested through motor disturbances or physical disturbances. Many migraine patients do not undergo this stage. It may occur before or during migraines.
They demonstrate through visual disturbances such as a sudden flash of light. The symptoms in this stage start gradually. Usually, they last for 20 to 60 minutes. Migraine with aura may also be connected to the weakness of the limbs. The symptoms in this stage are as follows:
- Loss of vision
- Visualizing bright spots
- Problem in speaking
- The patient feels a prickly sensation in a leg or an arm.
- Hearing non-existent music or sound
- Uncontrollable twitching or jerking
- A feeling of numbness or weakness is present on a side of the body or face.
- Muscular weakness
- The patients might feel as if someone is touching them.
- They may experience erratic vision.
Attack: An attack of Migraine may last for up to 72 hours when it is not treated. The frequency of headaches differs from person to person. One patient may experience migraine headaches frequently. On the other hand, a migraine patient may experience problems occasionally. The symptoms in this stage are as follows:
- Throbbing pain
- Either one side or both sides of the head hurts.
- Blurry vision
- Enhanced sensitivity to light, smell, touch, and sounds
Post-drome: This is the final stage of a migraine attack. Some people feel happy at this stage, while others experience acute depression. The patients may experience the following symptoms for 24 hours in this stage:
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Mood swings
These feelings may persist for 24 hours.
What are the causes of Migraines?
Researches haven’t revealed any particular causes of Migraine. Doctors believe that environment and genetics play a role in it.
A few factors which are believed to trigger Migraine areas follows:
Hormonal changes in women: When the estrogen level fluctuates in women, they face headaches. Women who have a history of Migraines often complain that they face paralyzing problems before or during periods. The estrogen level is known to drop during the menstruation period of a lady.
They may also develop Migraines during pregnancy and menopause. Hormonal replacement therapy and oral contraceptives may increase migraines.
Sensory stimuli: Glaring sunlight, loud sounds, bright light, or strong odor (like paint thinner and perfume) bring about Migraines.
Change in the sleeping pattern: Oversleeping as well as missing out on sleep may trigger Migraines. Those who travel abroad also know that jet lag brings about Migraines.
Physical exertion: Intense physical exertion, like sexual activity, is likely to trigger Migraines.
Drink: Caffeinated drinks and alcohol like wine provoke Migraines.
Food and food additives: Old cheese and processed food trigger a migraine. Fasting or avoiding a meal is also a Migraine trigger.
Stress: Stress in the workplace or home provokes Migraines.
Environmental change: Changing weather is likely to promote Migraines.
Brain chemical imbalance: Any change in the brain stem brings about an imbalance in brain chemicals. Serotonin may also play a role in Migraines. The role serotonin plays in inducing Migraines is still under research. It has been observed that the level of serotonin drops during a migraine attack. Genetics also plays an essential role in Migraines.
Medicines: Oral contraceptives may increase migraines.
Which risk factors make us prone to Migraines?
Many factors put patients at risk of Migraines. The risk factors are as follows:
- Family history: If a family member has Migraine, the next generation is more likely to trigger a Migraine.
- Age: There is no fixed age for Migraines. However, the first attack of Migraine is more likely to come about during adolescence. Migraine attacks reach their peak when the patients are in their 30s. In the subsequent offenses, the attacks lessen in severity.
- Gender: During childhood, boys are more likely to be affected by Migraine related headaches. It changes when children reach puberty. Since puberty, girls are more afflicted by Migraines. Later, women are thrice as much likely as boys to be afflicted by Migraines.
- Hormone changes: Women may be afflicted by Migraines just before or during their periods. It lessens after menopause. Migraine attacks may become more frequent during pregnancy.
What complications can the efforts to control Migraines bring about?
Ans: Patients try their level best to reduce migraine pain. Their efforts to reduce migraine pain may bring about many side effects like:
Headache induced by overuse of medication: Many patients take over-the-counter medicines for more than ten days a month. It may trigger severe problems caused by the overuse of drugs. Such a headache starts as soon as the medication ends. Then, the patients need to start the medication again, to stop the excruciating pain. This way, the cycle continues.
Serotonin Syndrome: This rare condition occurs when the patient’s body has too much of a nervous system chemical known as serotonin. This condition may be potentially life-threatening. Consumption of a few migraine medications known as triptans triggers it. Certain antidepressants like serotonin also put the patient at risk of serotonin syndrome.
Such medicines raise the level of serotonin in the body. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include involuntary jerking, changes in muscle control, and behavior. A combination of triptans with Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (also known as SSRI) increases the chances of serotonin syndrome.
Abdominal issues: When large doses of some painkillers like Ibuprofen are taken over a long time, it might cause bleeding, ulcer, and stomach ache. These painkillers are also known as anti-inflammatory drugs. E.g., Advil.
What complications can we face as a result of Migraines?
Ans: Migraine patients may also face some complications. The complications are as follows:
Chronic Migraine: If a patient suffers from a Migraine for fifteen days in a month or more, they have chronic Migraine. Having a Migraine for longer than three months may also be classified as chronic Migraine.
Continuous aura without infarction: Aura is a stage of Migraine. Generally, it goes away after a migraine attack. In rare cases, the aura continues for longer than a week after a migraine attack. A continuous aura may have signs that are similar to bleeding in the brain. However, it will not be accompanied by symptoms like tissue damage.
Migrainous Infarction: If the aura’s symptoms last for more than an hour, it is regarded as migrainous infarction. It may signal a loss of blood supply to a particular area of the brain. The family members of the patient need to consult a doctor immediately in case of such symptoms. The doctors conduct tests on the brain and identify the reasons behind the bleeding.
Status migrainosus: Patients who have this condition face severe attacks of Migraine. In their cases, Migraine lasts longer than three months.
How can Migraine be prevented?
The first and most common way to prevent Migraines is to avoid the triggers. However, some of the triggers, like environmental factors, are inevitable. So, doctors advise people to bring about some lifestyle changes and coping strategies. These coping strategies and lifestyle changes may at least reduce the severity of migraine-induced pain. Preventive measures are as follows:
- Following a consistent daily schedule: A migraine patient needs to prepare a consistent schedule. The program should contain a regular sleep pattern and a proper meal plan. The patient needs to adhere to this uniform, daily schedule. Apart from this, all migraine patients need to avoid stress at all costs.
- Regular exercise: Migraine patients need to practice aerobic exercises regularly. Such activities reduce stress. Hence, they may also bring Migraines under effective control. However, the patients need to consult the doctor before choosing any exercise. However, sudden activities may trigger a headache. So, the patients need to warm up slowly. Regular exercise also keeps the weight in control. Many doctors claim that obesity contributes to Migraines. So, if the doctor permits, the patient can choose any aerobic exercise, yoga, walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Reducing the impact of Estrogen: If a female patient is troubled by Migraines, she needs to observe whether the attacks are heightened by estrogen. If she finds estrogen to be a trigger of Migraines, she needs to curtail the estrogen medicines. Medicines like birth control pills or those taken for hormone replacement therapy may contain estrogen. A doctor should be able to prescribe alternate medications or reduced doses.
- Learning to cope: Learning to cope is a strategy to prevent migraines. In this case, a patient is gradually exposed to triggers of migraine-induced headaches. Regular, but gradual exposure to such triggers desensitizes the patient towards the effectiveness of this strategy and is still subject to research.
- Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation: Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved a device named Cefaly. It is a preventive therapy for migraines. This device resembles a headband that has attached electrodes. Research reveals that patients who used this device experienced lesser migraine attacks.
When should the patient consult a doctor?
Ans: Somehow, patients do not seek Migraine treatment or diagnosis. A patient needs to maintain records of the symptoms related to Migraines. The files should also contain the preventive measures that the patient had implemented.
If the Migraine persists, it is essential to consult a doctor and discuss the documents. In case the headaches feel different from earlier, or if the patient experiences any difference in pattern, it is essential to seek medical counseling.
In case medical help is not immediately available, the patient may go to the emergency room when the headache starts. The symptoms discussed below might turn dangerous and need immediate medical attention:
- A sudden splitting headache like a clap of thunder.
- The problem may be accompanied by confusion, seizure, dual vision, fever, trouble while speaking, numbness, and weakness.
- A chronic headache that may worsen after a bout of coughing, any abrupt movement, or exertion.
- New headache after the patient has turned 50 years old.
- Headache after a head injury or a stiff neck.
- If the headache worsens progressively.
When a patient experiences such symptoms, it is time to visit a doctor.
Migraine patients need to follow a healthy lifestyle and proper diet.