Anyone who has suffered migraines will know their debilitating pain and the search for relief. They are much more than just a headache, but often confused. What are the symptoms and how do these symptoms differ from a banging headache?
Migraines are very common and often stress related. Normally lasting between 4 hours and 72 hours, they range from mild to debilitating, and can leave people to rest in a cool dark room for several days with work being an impossible notion.
Migraine is a chronic condition and presents as headaches that are usually experienced either on one side, or both sides of the head. The pain experienced can be intense and throbbing, and may also be felt in the temples, or behind one or both eyes. These headaches can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, spots in the vision, blurred vision and sensitivity to smells, light and sound. A migraine can occur any time of the day; most people tend to get in the mornings, with the pain lasting for anywhere for 4 hours hour to 72 hours.
People can also suffer from a migraine with an aura. In such cases, you may find you get sensory symptoms; such as flashing lights, blind spots, numbness, or tingling in the face and hands, irregularities in their sense of taste and smell, or feeling fuzzy. This generally lasts for 10 minutes to half an hour before the onset of a headache. Alternatively, you may experience hyperactivity, food cravings, irritability, depression, stiffness in the neck, or constant yawning a day or two prior to the onset of a migraine. Fatigue and general exhaustion are also typical when a migraine attack is over.
The Causes of Migraines
No one knows the cause of a migraine. According to an article in the Express, which featured a UK TV on a show called This Morning, Dr Zoe said, “They tend to be around the eye, Paracetamol would be used for tension headache but probably one of the best thing for migraines is aspirin or ibuprofen.”
Dr. Atta G.A. Alkaznaji, Specialist – Neurology at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi said, “The exact cause of a migraine is not very clear; the reasons could range from genetic factors to having a brain that is more sensitive to certain stimuli compared to others (for example, certain smells). Migraines are also linked to an imbalance in brain chemicals such as serotonin, as the levels of serotonin drop during migraines. Women are also more likely to have migraines compared to men, and their migraines are often triggered by hormonal changes.”
Know your Triggers
There are certain triggers that cause migraines. These include a lack of or too much sleep, irregular eating habits, certain food or food additives, sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud sounds and strong odours, stress, weather changes, alcohol and caffeine, or changes in lifestyle such as those brought on by travel, etc. In an article in the Kashmir Monitor, Dr Ramesh Patanker also explained that summer sees an increase in migraines, “Hot and humid weather is sensitive to the body and often triggers migraines.” In light of this, definitely keep yourself hydrated at all times.
Lifestyle changes play a great role in curbing triggers. These include a regular schedule with set times for meals, complemented with exercise and adequate sleep. Reduced caffeine and alcohol intake is recommended. Relaxation techniques and yoga can also help reduce stress, which is a known trigger for migraines.
The Cure for Migraines
Sadly, as yet, there is no cure. They can be managed, and powerful painkillers are important in this process.
Ideally, you need to be able to spot the symptoms quickly. The sooner you react to the symptoms, the less likely it is that the migraine will develop. Taking over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, may be able to provide relief if taken early enough. There is stronger medication that can also be prescribed over both a short and longer term.
However, it is very important that you seek medical attention if the symptoms get worse, as they could indicate something more serious. Headaches which worsen with movement, or come on suddenly; headaches that bring on fever and seizures, or those experienced after an injury shouldn’t be ignored.
For information on how to deal with emotional food cravings, read our article here.