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Migraine - Headache

What is Migraine?

A migraine is a common type of headache that may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. In many people, a throbbing pain is felt only on one side of the head.

Some people who get migraines have warning symptoms, called an aura, before the actual headache begins. An aura is a group of symptoms, usually vision disturbances, that serve as a warning sign that a bad headache is coming. Most people, however, do not have such warning signs.

Alternative Names

Headache - migraine

Types of Migraines

Basically migraine symptoms have been classified in several categories but two prominent types of migraines one with aura and later without aura have been noticed. Migraine with aura, also known as classic types of migraines accompanies vision blindness for a time being or lack of sensation in certain body parts. Whereas, migraine without aura, termed as common types of migraines directly causes unbearable pain. Vigorous exercise develops exertion types of migraines; these migraine symptoms are short lived but very unpleasant. Abdominal migraines in children start from stomach and pursue towards head; these migraines in children are severe and should be immediately consulted to a doctor.

Symptoms of Migraines


First and the foremost of all migraine symptoms is hammering pain on one side or both the sides. Other general migraine symptoms along with headache are nausea, vomiting, mucus discharge from nose, and weakness. Some migraine symptoms are related to eyes such as pain over one eye with watery eyes, redness, dark circles and temporary vision blindness with dark spots. High frequency sound wave gives throbbing effect in brain and intensifies the pain, thus noise sensitivity can be concluded as one of the migraine symptoms. Even lowering your head in downward direction causes severe pain. Prescribed medications for migraines relieves pain up to some extent, but due course of medications for migraines patient should be carried out for permanent relief.

Causes, and risk factors of Migraines

Migraine awareness is high, and recent medical research indicates that migraines are caused by inherited mutations in genes which control brain activity. Migraines usually develop before the age of 40 and occur more commonly in women than men and in Caucasians more than in African Americans or Asians. Migraine incidence in children is equal in boys and girls, but migraines become three times more common in girls than in boys during adolescence, possibly due to hormonal effects.

Migraine onset begins with the release of serotonin, which can be triggered by stress, particular foods, sensations, medications, or hormone levels. For instance, migraines are induced in some people by glaring light, smells, or noise, or by emotional stress. In addition, lack of sleep, hypoglycemia caused by skipped meals, alcohol (especially red wine), excessive exercise, changes in altitude or weather, or MSG, nitrate, or tyramine-containing foods trigger migraine headache onset in some people.

Women's issues of heightened stress perception and cyclic hormonal fluctuations may account for the increased incidence in women. Medications such as birth control pills, drugs that dilate blood vessels or alter brain blood flow (for example, nitroglycerin, antihypertensives, anti-inflammatories, or bronchodilators), or chronically used head pain remedies can cause migraine headache.

Treatment for Migraines

Treatment is aimed at reducing the severity, frequency, and duration of attacks. During a sudden (acute) episode, it may help the individual to rest in a quiet, darkened room. The main classes of drugs available to treat acute migraine are agents that narrow blood vessels (triptans, ergotamines), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, or ketorolac. Pain killers (analgesics) such as acetaminophen or aspirin can relieve mild to moderate migraine. Combination painkillers that contain codeine or caffeine may be helpful.

Once the headache is underway, treatment usually requires a drug that narrows the opening of blood vessels (vasoconstrictor) to stop the attack. These medications (e.g., ergot alkaloid) are most helpful if given during the aura. With the availability of new types of vasoconstrictor taken by mouth or injection (triptans), pain relief may begin within a few minutes. If nausea and vomiting occur, medication may have to be administered under the tongue, by injection, or rectally. Migraine attacks that are severe, prolonged, or unresponsive to self-administered medications may have to be treated in the doctor's office or emergency room.

Complications of Migraines

Migraine with aura is a common disorder in industrialised countries, affecting up to 5% of the adult population. Although migraine aura is usually a benign disorder, in rare instances it can be the cause of serious neurologic complications. The most common is migrainous stroke, defined as a persistent neurologic deficit following the aura with evidence of brain infarction at neuroimaging and lack of alternative explanations. The most likely pathogenic mechanism is brain ischaemia induced by cortical spreading depression, but other possibilities, such as intracranic arterial dissection or embolism through patent foramen ovale need to be considered. Other complications are migraine-related seizures, which are probably caused by neuronal hyperexcitability in migraineurs, and persistent auras without infarction. These disorders are of both clinical and scientific interest, as they throw light on the complex and not yet fully understood relationship between migraine with aura, stroke and epilepsy.

Prevention of Migraines

Understanding your headache triggers can help you avoid foods and situations that cause your migraines. Keep a headache diary to help identify the source or trigger of your symptoms. Then modify your environment or habits to avoid future headaches.

Other tips for preventing migraines include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners and other known food-related triggers
  • Get regular exercise
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Learn to relax and reduce stress -- some patients have found that biofeedback and self-hypnosis helps reduce the number of migraine attacks

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