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Migraine is a devastating condition which has the fatal capacity of putting life on hold from 2 hours to a week. It is characterized by moderate to severe headaches, nausea and visual disturbances such as blurred vision, lines in visual field, etc. Generally migraine headaches occur in only half of the head. When the pain reaches its peak, nausea and vomiting follows. After the pain attack, the patient usually feels exhausted. The migraine attack lasts for 4 hours to 72 hours.
Migraines are most common during the twenties and thirties; however after the age of 50, migraine tends to reduce. It is more common in females than in males.
Causes of Migraine
Migraines are of various different types and can have several different causes.
Few of the common triggers of migraine are as follows:
- Expansion or dilation of blood vessels in the brain which causes release of chemicals in the blood vessels supplying the brain and its coverings.
- Sleep disturbances like sleep deprivation, excessive sleep, poor quality of sleep, and frequent awakening at night.
- Decrease in the blood level of estrogen during the onset of menstruation.
- Tyramine-containing foods, coffee, chocolate, certain food additives and sugar substitutes.
- Bright lights and other high intensity visual stimuli.
- Strong odors.
- Cigarette smoke.
- Changes in the environment.
Symptoms and signs of Migraine
In few people migraine appears with no symptoms at all before an attack. This is known as a migraine without aura. While few other migraine sufferers experience several warning signs (aura) before the onset of the actual migraine headache. These are termed as classic migraines (with aura). Auras are perceptual disturbances like confusing thoughts or the perception of strange lights or flashing lights, lines in the visual field, pins and needles in the arm or leg, or unpleasant smells.
Typical symptoms of migraine are:
- Severe pain, generally confined to one side of the head.
- Pulsing and throbbing headache.
- Pain increasing on physical activity.
- Incapability to perform regular activities because of the pain.
- Temporary loss of vision in one eye.
- Blurring of vision in one or both the eyes.
- Weakness in one or both arms and legs.
- Accelerated sensitivity to light and sound.
- Difficulty in speaking.
- Changes in mood.
Complications of Migraine
- Chronic Migraines
- Status Migrainosus
- Persistent Aura without Infarction (PAWI)
- Migrainous Infarction
- Epileptic seizures.
- Abdominal pain, bleeding and ulcers, if huge doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and aspirin are consumed for longer periods.
Diagnosis of Migraine
Migraine can be diagnosed through the presence of clinical symptoms. Complete physical examination shall be conducted by the physician to rule out headaches due to muscle tension, sinus, etc. There is no particular test to identify migraine. However, to rule out other disorders, your physician shall advice an electroencephalography (EEG), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and spinal tap.
Treatment of Migraine
Migraine cannot be cured, but can be controlled. The below mentioned steps shall help in controlling migraine:-
- Analgesics (pain relievers) such as non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Avoidance of triggers.
- Apply cold packs to the head or press on the bulging artery near the ear on the painful side of the head.
- Rest in a silent and dark room.
- Leading a healthy life-style.
- Consume good nutrition.
- Adequate intake of fluids.
Prevention of Migraine:
Migraine can be prevented by the following methods -
- Getting proper exercise.
- Avoiding smoking and alcohol.
- Consuming a well balanced, low in processed foods and high on fruits and vegetables.
- Stress management techniques and stress-reducing activities such as meditation and yoga.
- Life style modifications.
- Take sufficient amount of sleep.
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