Migraine headaches are a terrible disruption to life. About 11 out of every 100 people have migraines headaches and can begin interrupting a person’s life as early as age 10. Pregnancy seems to reduce the number of migraine headaches a woman may have, as women with a history of migraines report a significant reduction to a disappearance from the second trimester and beyond.
There are a variety of migraine headaches including migraines with aura, migraines without aura, and migraines with tension headaches. Migraines without aura have no warning symptoms while migraine headaches with aura begin with visual disturbances. Migraine headache with tension headache is a combination of both migraine pain and tension headache pain.
Migraine headaches can range from a dull but insistent pain to a severe pain that inhibits everything. A migraine may start as a stiff headache and continually worsen despite the use of over the counter pain relievers. They may simply come on strong and be a torturous pain within a few minutes. Most migraine sufferers experience throbbing, pulsating, or pounding pain, feel worse pain on one side of the head, and have symptoms anywhere from 6 to 48 hours.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, numbness, weakness, tingling, feeling mentally dull, increased need for sleep, neck pain or stiffness sometimes spreading to the shoulder, and loss of appetite. Some symptoms may linger for a period of time even after the migraine headache has gone away.
The cause of migraine headaches is not clear. It was once thought that migraines began due to changes in the blood vessels, but now scientists believe that the changes occur in the brain first. Some believe that migraines are an allergic reaction as there are specific triggers for migraine headaches that seem to be a common denominator.
Triggers for migraines include smoking, exposure to smoke, alcohol, caffeine, skipping meals, allergic reactions, bright lights, perfumes and other odors, bleach, changes in sleep patterns, physical stress, emotional stress, birth control pills, menstrual cycle fluctuations, food reactions such as chocolate, peanut butter, avocado, nuts, onions, bananas, citrus, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods, or foods containing tyramine such as red wine, chicken livers, figs, smoked fish, aged cheese, and some beans.
There really don’t seem to be any particular risk factors for migraine headaches, although it is thought that once a person experiences a migraine, they are more likely to get another one. It is rare for a person to only have one migraine in their lifetime. Some people are more sensitive to the triggers and have migraines often while others may only have migraine headaches every once in a while. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious determining factor for the difference.
Diagnosis by a physician is based on the description of symptoms, although when a persona experiences a migraine headache there is no doubt. CAT scans or MRIs may be ordered to rule out other causes for the pain such as a brain mass or sinus inflammation. An EEG may be ordered to rule out seizures and in rare instances a spinal tap may be considered to rule out meningitis.
While there are no health threats associated with the complications of migraine headaches, they do complicate daily life and often render the victim non-functional for up to two days. When migraines interfere with daily life, it is important to get treatment to avoid chronic problems such as working or raising children.
Treating migraines right away can help ease their intensity and relieve the pain earlier. Avoiding triggers and avoiding migraines altogether is the ultimate goal. There is no single treatment for migraines headaches, although newer medications have a positive effect in most cases. Prescription medication can help ease the pain earlier and prevent total non-functioning pain from setting in.
Resting in a quiet and darkened room, using compresses, drinking fluids to avoid dehydration, and finding comfort in whatever manner suits the individual is appropriate can help to ease the pain. Enlisting the understanding and assistance of family members can be of significant importance, especially when there are children in the household. Keeping in contact with a physician to adjust treatments as necessary can help alleviate migraine headache pain.