What are migraines?
Migraines are chronic pounding and pulsating headaches. It is a common health condition that implicates the head. Migraine is a moderate to severe headache with a throbbing pain that can be felt in one area of the head. This type of headache is a neurological condition that usually lasts for a couple of days.
Migraines cause unbearable pain similar to any injury sustained by the body. This type of headache is usually experienced during early adulthood. About 1 out of 15 men and 1 out of 15 women experience this tormenting headache.
The science behind migraine
Migraines are the result of a complex cascade of unscrupulous activities in the brain. Although this theory has not been fully proven yet, researchers have been able to determine that these associated brain activities may have originated in the trigeminal nerve. This is the body’s largest cranial nerve where changes quickly spread throughout a network of nerves. These nerves form a web called the dura mater which is spread throughout the delicate outer lining of the brain.
Ten minutes after a migraine begins, the pain-sensing nerves undergo molecular changes. These changes cause hypersensitivity to pressure and the trigger response creates throbbing pain as blood pressure is naturally pumped with each heartbeat.
In some instances, some blood vessels dilate while the blood flow is altered. Thus, causing the pain-producing chemicals to be released. Unfortunately, some of these changes may persist even after an attack has passed.
The brain then produces chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin which are also believed to contribute to migraine development.
Another theory suggests that migraines may be related to the unwarranted temperature regulation in certain regions of the brain. Ultimately, scientists and researchers think that genetic factors and environmental factors also play an important role in the progression of migraines. Thereby, concluding that if a person’s body is susceptible to developing migraines, they are also susceptible to looking for preventive measures or to finding a treatment for it.
Migraine with Aura
This is the classic migraine that produces recurring headaches. It strikes after or at the same time as sensory disturbances. This type of migraine shows specific warning signs just before it starts like seeing flashing lights.
This migraine happens along with things like wooziness, a very distinct ringing sound in your ears, visuals of zigzag lines, and sensitivity to light. Some people who experience this kind of migraine may get an aura but no pain.
What is an aura?
“Aura” is the term that describes any sensory disturbances or changes that happen before a migraine or headache happens. This sensory disturbance can affect your vision, hearing, or speech. In some cases, it can also cause muscle weakness or tingling.
Types of migraines with aura
- Classic Migraine: This includes migraines with and without headache.
- Migraine with brainstem aura: This happens when the sensory disturbances start from the base of your brain or the brainstem. In rare cases, the aura may also begin on both sides of your brain.
- Hemiplegic migraine: This is the rarest type of migraine. When this occurs, there will be a sense of weakness on one side of your body or otherwise called hemiplegia.
- Retinal migraine: In this type of migraine, changes in your vision can be experienced in one eye right before a throbbing headache begins.
Symptoms of migraines with aura
The symptoms for migraine with aura can be classified into common, prodrome, and sensory symptoms
Migraine pain can either be steady or throbbing. In most cases, you will feel this on the front or side of your head just around the eyes. Migraine in adults is more likely to show between 1 hour to about 3 days.
Aside from this unbearable pain, you may also feel the following common symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting coupled with an upset stomach;
- Chills with hot flashes;
- Stuffy or runny nose;
- Vertigo or a spinning vision combined with dizziness;
- Pain in the neck or jaw;
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, smells, touch, and even movements;
- Feeling confused; and
- Muscle weakness.
These symptoms include the following:
- Craving for certain foods;
- Feeling cranky or hyperactivity;
- Feeling of tiredness, thus yawning often;
- Feeling stiff, especially in your neck or jaw;
- Loof of bladder control, thus necessitating to pee all the time; and
- Experiencing extreme bowel movements, that is, either you feel constipated or you are experiencing loose bowel movement.
Prodrome symptoms are also known as the pre headache phase. Do you know how long they last? Warning signs last for 24 to 48 hours before migraine attacks.
The sensory disturbance in migraines with aura usually starts over a period of 5 to 20 minutes and lasts for less than an hour.
Here are the sensory symptoms of migraine with aura:
- Scotomas or blind spots;
- Partial loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Fortification spectra or the feeling of seeing zigzag patterns;
- Scintilla or seeing flashing lights;
- Hallucinations or seemingly seeing, hearing, or smelling things that do not really exist at the moment;
- Paresthesia or the feeling of prickling, tingling, or numbness; and
- Aphasia or the inability to speak clearly or having trouble finding words.
Causes of migraines with aura
When chronic migraine runs in the family, you are likely at risk of experiencing a migraine attack. People who have migraines usually experience this since childhood and it gets worse through adolescence.
As adolescents, more boys than girls experience migraines, but as they mature more adult women experience it than men. However, over time, you will notice that your migraine attack occurs lesser as you mature.
Migraine without aura
This migraine headache is common in children. This headache is more often bilateral, orbital, or frontotemporal, and the pain may radiate to the face, occiput, or neck.
While other migraine symptoms start and stop with the headache itself, migraine without aura differs. It causes some form of disability before, during, and after the attack.
Migraine without aura consists of a sequence of three phases: premonitory, headache and postdrome.
The premonitory phase may be experienced a few hours or sometimes a couple of days before you experience the migraine headache. This phase is like a warning stage before the headache starts. The premonitory phase also happens in migraines with aura.
Here are the potential symptoms of the premonitory phase:
- Tendency to crave for specific food;
- Extreme bowel movement attacks;
- Incomprehensible mood swings;
- Muscle stiffness, especially in the neck area;
- Strong emotional attacks like depression;
- A feeling of over-fatigue coupled with frequent yawning;
- Increased frequency of urination; and
- Sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraine without aura typically exhibits moderate to severe head pains. People who experience this excruciating pain have some difficulty comprehending its intensity.
Characteristics of the headache phase may include the following:
- Headache pain that may last for 4-72 hours when untreated;
- Pounding pain on one area of the head;
- Moderate to severe pain intensity;
- Throbbing and worsening migraine pain, especially when you are forced to exert physical force;
- Nausea and vomiting; and
- Sensitivity to sound and light.
After the headache phase, the evidence of pain continues during the postdrome phase. For most patients, it takes several hours to fully recover from the pain and some even take days. The postdrome phase is also known as the “zombie” phase, where they have a seeming feeling of alcohol or drug hungover.
The symptoms of postdrome may include any or all of the following:
- Lowered mood levels similar to depression;
- Poor feelings of well-being;
- Fatigue and restlessness; and
- Poor concentration and comprehension.
The postdrome phase is usually attributed to medications taken to treat migraines. Little did most people know that this phase may likewise be caused by the migraine itself.
Migraine without headache
This type of migraine is also called “silent migraine.” This type of migraine happens when the headache does not follow the aura.
Treatment of migraine
There is no exact cure for migraines. However, when you consult a doctor or a migraine specialist, he or she may provide treatment options that can help reduce the risks of migraine symptoms or prevent migraines from progressing. With the right medication, you can take steps to help manage the frequency and severity of episodes.
Emerging researches suggest that there is a chance to cease the progression of molecular changes resulting in a migraine. To successfully attain this, treatment of migraine has to be done within the next 10 to 20 minutes from the occurrence of the initial symptoms.
In case the first attempt fails, the next window of opportunity will be within one to two hours on the onset of the headache. When this chance passes, the skin of the face and scalp may become hypersensitive to touch. Thus, it is very important to begin the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
Various medicines and drugs are made available in the market to treat migraine headaches. Over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are now available to help relieve and alleviate the discomfort caused by migraines. In most cases, however, these drugs and medicines are combined with caffeine to combat acute migraine to severe episodes of a migraine attack.
A doctor may prescribe other drugs including antidepressants, beta-blockers, anti-seizure medicines, ergot, triptans, and alkaloids. One of the many drugs that have proven and safe effects on migraines is triptans. Triptans are a class of tryptamine-based drugs that helps relieve ongoing migraine headaches.
It is important to properly manage your medication to help minimize if not eliminate the reoccurrence or rebound of your migraine headache. You may request a doctor or a healthcare provider to help you in the management of your medication. They can also determine the effectiveness of your treatment plan to ensure that you are benefiting from your treatments.
Home and natural treatment of migraine
Others may also resort to home medication or herbal treatments.
Home remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of migraine
- Flexible cold packs or masks can be used to treat migraine;
- Staying in a quiet, darkened room while your migraine occurs; and
- Sleep as much as necessary.
Supplements and herbal medicines are also a good source of medication although they still have limited evidence of their effectiveness as well as their side effects. These herbal medicines have shown some promising medical advantages to treat migraines.
Common and featured herbal medicines and supplements
- Herbal treatments such as butterbur and feverfew;
- Coenzyme 10; and
You may also resort to non-drug treatments or alternative therapy such as acupuncture; neck exercises and massages; and physical therapy. However, from a medical point of view showing no evidence of proven medical substantiation, it is best to visit a medical clinic or your trusted doctor for warranted medical advice.
While it is not always possible to prevent migraine episodes, there are ways to reduce the risk of migraine symptoms. When you aim to prevent migraines, you may also lower their frequency and severity.
Available medication to help prevent headaches caused by migraine
Here is a list of prescription drugs may help decrease the number of episodes of severe migraine:
- Anti-seizure drugs like topiramate;
- Medicines used for treating high blood pressure such as propranolol; antidepressant medications
- Botox or botulinum toxin; and
- Antagonists of the CGRP receptor including Gepants.
Prescription drugs may take a number of weeks before it takes effect.
Treatments for children and adolescents vary and they also differ from medications that adults can take every day. It is always important to consult a doctor who can provide the best medical advice and a treatment option that works best for you and your lifestyle.
Identifying and avoiding triggers
An episode of a migraine is a response to a related trigger. Thus, it can be helpful to figure out the culprit. It may be something you ate or drunk or a place you visited. What you can do is to keep a diary that can be reviewed by you and your doctor to help you determine the cause of your migraine.
Triggers that you need to avoid
- Having low blood sugar level;
- Overexertion when performing a physical exercise or activity;
- Eating certain food like chocolate and others that contain tyramine;
- A number of medications including HRT and birth control pills; and
- Bright lights and flickering screens.
These preventive measures can help lower the risks of migraine attacks and related symptoms.
Strategies that can help manage the frequency of migraines
- Get enough sleep;
- Regular exercise;
- Reducing stress;
- Hydration therapy;
- Posture management therapy;
- Avoiding dietary triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, and cheese;
- Avoiding lifestyle risk including smoking;
After adhering to these featured preventive options, and the severity and frequency of migraine pursue, a clinic or medical visit may be proper. The best authority for migraine-related treatments is a licensed doctor, and it is just right to trust him or her.
Pointers to consider migraine treatment
The level of migraine headaches varies from acute to severe pain. The proper management of migraines depends on certain factors such as drug or medicine intake, health-associated issues, medications used to treat pain-related conditions, and your lifestyle.
A number of effective treatments are available to lower the symptoms and prevent further attacks. Migraines can sometimes get worse over time. There are cases when an acute migraine in adults tends to level up its severity. However, with proper treatment, some people who struggle with a severe headache caused by migraine attacks gradually improve over the years.
Sensitivity to light and sound
Light and sound sensitivity are the most common triggers of headaches. When this pursues, it may result in nausea and vomiting. Your first line of defense to combat this trigger is to get enough sleep, especially for children.
In case sleep is not an option, ask your doctor for the right medicine or a therapy treatment plan to reduce the sensitivity.
How to combat nausea and vomiting
Vomiting coupled with nausea is one of the many effects of migraines that should not be taken lightly. This happens when some blood vessels in your brain restrict the flow of blood and the circulation of oxygen.
When this happens, you may try to close your eyes and have a few rounds of deep breathing. In extreme cases, sleeping and geeing enough rest. If this continues you may consult your doctor for the right drug that can help in treating this condition.
Other home remedies to prevent the risk of migraines
Cool it down
Use an ice pack to lower your temperature. place it on your forehead, scalp, or neck to ease the trigger of pain. If you do not have an ice pack at home, you can also try a frozen gel pack or a damp washcloth.
Caffeine is an element of coffee. It can also be found in some other food and drinks such as tea, soda, and chocolate. a dose of caffeine is proven to provide mild relief. It could also help your body absorb some pain-associated medications faster. However, always keep in mind to regulate your caffeine intake.
Remember that a dose of caffeine is all you need!
A dose of magnesium
You find magnesium in some food and supplements. This mineral can be found in dark-green veggies, whole grains, and nuts. However, it is not advisable to eat magnesium-rich foods in the midst of a migraine episode.
A dose of magnesium works best as a preventive treatment. You can also find magnesium supplements from pharmacies. However, always consult your doctor before taking supplements.
Manage your triggers
Your migraines are sometimes set off by what you eat or drink. Some featured trouble spots on the menu are red wine, aged cheese, and cured meats.
Sometimes your surroundings can also heighten not just your migraine but poor health as well. Make sure to stay away from bright lights, high altitude, and strong odors as these can also trigger nausea and dizziness. Find out what escalates your migraine and avoid it.
Build your migraine response kit
Migraines come on without any warning. Whether you are at home, at work, at school, or the mall, there is always the risk of having a migraine attack. Thus, it is a good idea to always be ready with a treatment kit. Make sure to include your medications, a washcloth, a bottle of water, a dose of caffeine, and other aids that can help you at the first sign of a headache.
It is better to be ready at all times to ensure your safety and promote better health!