What is Migraine?
A migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurring, intense headaches that typically affect one side of the head. Migraine headaches can be severe and are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Some individuals with migraines also experience visual disturbances known as “auras” before the headache sets in.
Migraines are not just regular headaches, they are a complex condition with various triggers and contributing factors. They can be debilitating and significantly impact a person’s quality of life. They are likely to get worse with physical activity such as lights, sounds, and smells. It may last for at least four hours or even extend for days. About 12% of Americans have this genetic disorder. It is the sixth most disabling disease in the world according to some research analysis.
What is an Aura?
An aura in the context of migraine refers to a set of sensory disturbances or neurological symptoms that some individuals have shortly before or after the onset of the migraine headache. These aura symptoms are usually temporary and can affect various senses. Common aura symptoms include:
~ Visual disturbances, flashing lights, zigzag lines, bling spots, or temporary vision loss.
~ Experiencing tingling or numbness, often starting in the hands, spreading up the arm and into the face.
~ Difficulty in speaking or understanding languages may also occur.
Auras typically develop gradually over a few minutes and can last for up to an hour before the actual migraine headaches begin which are evident in around 15% to 20% of people. Not everyone with migraines experiences auras, they are common in what’s known as the “migraine with aura” subtype. However, auras are reversible and generally do not cause permanent damage but can be distressing for those who experience them.
What are the symptoms of migraine?
Migraine symptoms can vary from person to person, but they typically include the following:
~ Headache characterized by severe throbbing pain that can affect one side and sometimes can be experienced on both sides lasting for several hours to days if left untreated.
~ Many people with migraines feel nauseous and may vomit during an attack.
~ Some individuals with migraines experience visual disturbances, sensory changes, or language difficulties known as auras before or during the headache, however not in case of everyone dealing with migraines.
~ Sensitivity to sound (phonophobia) and light (photophobia) especially loud or sudden noises and bright lights or normal indoor lights can worsen migraine for sufferers.
~ Osmophobia, certain odors can trigger migraines for individuals especially those sensitive to smell.
The symptoms of migraine can vary in intensity and frequency from person to person. Not all individuals with migraines experience every symptom listed here.
What are the causes?
The key contributors and triggers associated with migraine are included:
~ Migraines tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. If any close family members have migraines, one, may be susceptible to them.
~ Migraines are thought to involve in brain activity and the way the nervous system functions.
~ Hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women, can trigger migraines. For example, many women experience migraines associated with their menstrual cycle or hormonal contraceptives.
~ Certain medications, such as vasodilators or hormonal therapies, can trigger migraines as a side effect.
~Some people are sensitive to specific allergens or chemicals, which can provoke migraine.
~ Various triggers can initiate migraine attacks in susceptible individuals. Common triggers are as follows:
- Weather changes.
- Environmental factor (e.g., bright lights, loud noise, strong odors.)
- Stress and emotional factors.
- Certain foods and drinks (e.g., aged cheese, alcohol, caffeine).
- Physical changes.
- Skipping meals or fasting.
It’s essential to identify and manage one’s specific migraine triggers, as this can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
Who is more likely to have Migraine?
Migraines can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, but certain factors can make some individuals more likely to experience migraines. Here are some factors that can increase the likelihood of getting migraines:
~ Gender: Migraines are more common in women than in men. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can trigger migraines in some women.
~ Family History: If you have a family history of migraines, you are more likely to experience them. Migraines often have a genetic component.
~ Age: Migraines can occur at any age, but they often start during adolescence and tend to peak in frequency during 30s and 40s.
~ Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in estrogen levels, such as during menstruation, pregnancy, or the use of birth control pills, can trigger migraine in some individuals.
~ Stress: High levels of stress and anxiety can contribute to the onset or worsening of migraines.
~ Certain Triggers: Specific triggers like certain food (e.g., aged cheese like processed meats), alcohol, lack of sleep, and sensory stimuli (bright lights, loud noises) can provoke migraines in susceptible individuals.
~ Medical Conditions: People with certain conditions, like epilepsy, or depression, may be more prone to migraines.
It’s important to note that while these factors increase the likelihood of getting migraines, anyone can experience a migraine at some point in their life. If you frequently experience migraines or concerns about them, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management.
What are the measures to prevent Migraine?
~ Keep a track on headaches and potential triggers one can identify them, try to avoid or minimize exposure to them.
~ Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday, even on weekends.
~ Practice stress-reduction techniques like relaxation exercises, meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. Stress is often regardless as a common trigger point for migraines to occur.
~ Stay well-hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. Dehydration can trigger migraines in some individuals.
~ Overusing pain relievers, including over-the-counter medications, can lead to medication-overuse headaches.
~ Engaging in moderate, consistent exercise, but be caution that one doesn’t overexert itself, as intense physical activity can trigger migraines in some cases.
~ Alternative therapies like acupuncture or chiropractic care can help one find relief from migraines.
It is essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized migraine prevention plan tailored to specific needs and triggers. Not all preventive strategies work the same way for everyone, so finding the right approach may take some time and experimentation.
What are some of the home remedies that can help one during migraine?
While home remedies may not replace medical treatment, they can sometimes help alleviate migraine symptoms. Here are some home remedies to try:
~ Rest in a Dark Room: Find a quiet, dark room to rest in. Sensory stimulation can worsen migraines.
~ Cold Compress: Apply a cold compress to your forehead or the back of your neck. This is can help reduce pain.
~ Hydration: Dehydration can trigger migraines, so make sure you’re well-hydrated.
~ Caffeine: A small amount of caffeine might provide relief for some people, but excessive intake can make it worse.
~ Ginger: Ginger tea or capsules may help reduce migraine nausea and pain.
~ Peppermint Oil: Apply diluted peppermint oil to your temples and massage gently.
~ Lavender Oil: Inhaling the scent of lavender may provide relief.
~ Acupressure: Try gently massaging pressure points like the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger.
~ Yoga and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like deep breathing, yoga, or medication can reduce stress, which may trigger migraines.
~ Dietary Changes: Identify and avoid trigger foods like aged cheese, processed meats, or foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Remember, what works can vary from person to person, and if your migraines are severe or frequent, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.