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Mar 24, 2008

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is an intense throbbing pain which often only affects part of the head and may involve nausea, vomiting, extreme pain, or vision disturbances. The pain may be felt behind the temples, or behind one eye or ear. Although migraines can occur at any time of day, they commonly begin in the morning. A migraine can last from several hours to several days.

The specific cause of migraines is unknown. Too much or too little sleep, lack of food, stress, hormonal changes in women, weather changes, bright lights and certain foods such as chocolate or red wine are thought to be triggers of a migraine attack. It is thought that constricted blood flow in the brain can bring on the pain.

Contrary to popular belief, a migraine is not actually a headache. A headache is just a symptom of the migraine. In some migraines, a headache is not present at all. Some people can predict the onset of a migraine as an aura, vision disturbances, zigzag lines, or temporary vision loss may precede it. Sometimes the symptoms can begin as early as 24 hours before the migraine attack. Many people also report feeling irritable, depressed, or hyper.

Twenty-five percent of all people and 15% of Americans, suffer from migraines. More women than men suffer from this condition. Migraines affect younger people more often than older. Boys and girls younger than 10 suffer equally from migraines. After the age of 12 and after puberty, three times as many girls suffer from migraines than boys. Although migraines can occur up to 10 times a month or more, the average is 1 to 2 a month. Caucasians experience migraines more often than Asians or African Americans. Family history also plays a role in migraines. Over half of migraine suffers have a parent with migraines.

Everyone is different and it is important for each individual to pay attention to the triggers associated with their own migraines. Keeping a diary is recommended to track the foods, weather and other events leading up to a migraine. Avoiding these triggers is the best way to prevent a migraine. Other methods physicians recommend are getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet on a regular basis, lowering stress and establishing regular sleep patterns.

There are several common methods to treat a migraine. Lying in a dark room is one common way to alleviate the pain. Small doses of caffeine have been known to help treat a migraine, but large doses can be triggers. Over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can help with migraine pain. Doctors can also prescribe stronger drugs called ergotamines or triptans. Putting an ice pack at the back of the skull will lessen the blood flow to the head and provide instant relief. An icepack on the head directly where the pain is felt can also be helpful. Sleep is another way to get through a migraine.

If migraines become more frequent or more painful, it is important to discuss treatment with a physician. Fortunately migraines tend to decrease with age.

Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Headaches

1 comment:

RacyKacy said...

Unless a person them self has actually suffered a migraine attack, they will find it hard to understand the real pain involved.