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Understanding Migraines Causes and Symptoms

Last updated on January 20th, 2023 at 10:02 am

A migraine is usually an intense pounding headache that can last for hours or even days. The pounding or pulsing pain usually begins in the forehead, the side of the head, or around the eyes. The headache gradually gets worse. Just about any movement, activity, bright light, or loud noise seems to make it hurt more. Nausea and vomiting are common during a migraine.

Migraines may happen only once or twice a year, or as often as daily. Women are more likely to have migraines than men.

What is Migraine Headache?

Migraine headaches are a debilitating form of pain that can have a variety of symptoms. They can be triggered by bright lights, loud sounds, or other sensory stimuli. Not only that, but migraines may also cause several other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and photophobia.

Migraine is a medical condition. A migraine headache is usually an intense, throbbing pain on one, or sometimes, both sides of the head.

The 11 Symptoms of Migraines

Possible migraine symptoms include;

  1. Intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side of your head or both sides.
  2. Pain that worsens with physical activity.
  3. Nausea or vomiting.
  4. Changes in how including blurred vision or blind spots.
  5. Being bothered by light, noise, or odors.
  6. Feeling tired and/or confused.
  7. Stopped-up nose.
  8. Feeling cold or sweaty.
  9. Stiff or tender neck.
  10. Lightheadedness.
  11. Tender scalp.
  1. What is Migraine?

    Migraine is a medical condition. Most people who suffer from migraines get headaches that can be quite severe. A migraine headache is usually an intense, throbbing pain on one, or sometimes, both sides of the head. Most people with migraine headaches feel the pain in the temples or behind one eye or ear, although any part of the head can be involved. Besides pain, migraines also can cause nausea and vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people also may see spots or flashing lights or have a temporary loss of vision. Migraine can occur of the day, though it often starts in the morning. The pain can last a few hours or up to one or two days. Some people get migraines once or twice a week. Others, only once or twice a year. Most of the time, migraines are not a threat to your overall health. But migraine attacks can interfere with your day-to-day life.

  2. What Causes Migraines?

    The exact cause of migraine is not fully understood. Most researchers think migraine is because of abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain. When the levels of these substances increase, they can cause inflammation. This inflammation then causes blood vessels in the brain to swell and press on nearby nerves, causing pain. Genes also have been linked to migraine. People who get migraines may have abnormal genes that control the functions of certain brain cells. Experts know that people with migraines react to a variety of factors and events, called triggers. These triggers can vary from person to person and don’t always lead to migraine. A combination of triggers not a single thing or event is more likely to set off an attack. A person’s response to triggers also can vary from migraine to migraine. 

  3. What are the Different Migraine?

    Classic migraines (also called complicated migraines) start with a warning sign called an aura. These types of migraines are sometimes also called “migraines with aura.” The aura often involves changes in the way you see. There are flashing lights, colors, a pattern of lines, or shadows. You may temporarily lose some of your vision, such as your side vision. You may also feel a strange prickly or burning sensation, or have muscle weakness on one side of your body. It’s possible that you have trouble communicating. You may also feel depressed, irritable, and restless. Auras lasts about 15 to 30 minutes. Auras may occur before or after your head pain. Sometimes the pain and aura overlap or the pain never occurs. The head pain of classic migraines may occur on one side of your head or on both sides. Common migraines don’t start with an aura. For this reason, these types of migraines are also called “migraines without aura.” Common migraines may start more slowly than classic migraines, last longer, and interfere more with daily activities. The pain of common migraines may be on only one side of your head. Most people who have migraines have common migraines (they don’t have an aura).

  4. What is the Difference Between Sinus Headache and Migraine?

    Many people confuse a sinus headache with a migraine because pain and pressure on the sinuses, nasal congestion, and watery eyes often occur with migraines. To find out if your headache is a sinus or migraine, ask yourself these questions:
    Besides my sinus symptoms, do I have: 1) Moderate-to-severe headache 2) Nausea 3) Sensitivity to light
    If you answer “yes” to two or three questions, then most likely you have migraine with sinus symptoms. A true sinus headache is rare and usually occurs because of sinus infection. In a sinus infection, you would also likely have a fever and thick nasal secretions that are yellow, green, or blood-tinged. A sinus headache should go away with the treatment of the sinus infection.

  5. What Tests are Used to Diagnose Migraine?

    If you think you get migraine headaches, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may do a questionnaire and ask more questions about your health history. This could include past head injury and sinus or dental problems. Your doctor may diagnose migraine just from the information you provide. You may get a blood test or other tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, if your doctor thinks that something else is causing your headaches.

  6. Are Migraine Headaches More Common in Women than Men?

    Yes. three out of four people who have migraines are women. Migraines are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 45. At this time of life, women often have more job, family, and social duties. Women report more painful and longer lasting headaches and more symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. All these factors make it hard for a woman to fulfill her roles at work and at home when migraine strikes.

  7. Could Migraine be related to the Menstrual Cycle?

    More than half of migraines in women occur right before, during, or after a woman has her period. This often is called menstrual migraine. But, just a small fraction of women who have migraine around their period only have migraine. Most have migraine headaches at other times of the month as well. How the menstrual cycle and migraine are linked is still unclear. We know that just before the cycle begins, levels of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, go down sharply. This drop in hormones may trigger a migraine because estrogen controls chemicals in the brain that affect a woman’s pain sensation.

  8. Can Migraines be Worse During Menopause?

    If your migraine headaches are closely linked to your menstrual cycle, menopause may make them less severe. As you get older, nausea and vomiting may decrease as well. About two-thirds of women with migraines report their symptoms improve with menopause. But for some women, menopause worsens migraine or triggers them to start. It is not clear why this happens. Menopausal hormone therapy, which is prescribed for some women during menopause, may be linked to migraines during this time. Though, the worsening of migraine symptoms goes away once menopause is complete.

  9. Can Stress Cause Migraines?

    Yes. Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache. Try to figure out what causes you to feel stressed. You may cut out some of these stressors. For example, if driving to work is stressful, try taking the bus or subway. You can take this time to read or listen to music, rather than deal with traffic. For stressors you can’t avoid, keeping organized and doing as much as you can ahead of time will help you feel in control.

  10. How Migraines Treated?

    Migraine has no cure. But your migraines can be managed with your doctor’s help. Together, you will treat migraine symptoms when they happen, as well as ways to help make your migraines less frequent and severe. Acute treatment. Over-the-counter pain-relief drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen relieve mild migraine pain for some people. If these drugs don’t work for you, your doctor might want you to try a prescription drug. Lifestyle changes. Practicing these habits can reduce the number of migraine attacks: Avoid or limit triggers. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Eat healthy foods and do not skip meals. Engage in regular physical activity. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. Learn ways to reduce and cope with stress.

  11. How to Prevent Migraine?

    The best way to prevent migraine is to find out what triggers your attacks and avoid or limit these triggers. Since migraine headaches are more common during times of stress, finding healthy ways to cut down on and cope with stress might help. Talk with your doctor about starting a fitness program or taking a class to learn relaxation skills. Talk with your doctor if you need to take your pain-relief medicine more than twice a week. Doing so can lead to rebound headaches. If your doctor has prescribed a medicine for you to help prevent migraine, take them exactly as prescribed. Ask what you should do if you miss a dose and how long you should take the medicine. Talk with your doctor if the amount of medicine you are prescribed is not helping your headaches.

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The Idea of Living with Migraines

Migraines can come on quickly, many times without warning. They can ruin your day or even several days at a time. They can make you miss work, miss important events, miss out on the fun. If you have recurring migraines, you probably feel you don’t have total control over your life.

Work with your doctor to take back control. Keep a migraine journal. Document when you get migraines and what you were doing and eating. Keep a record of what the weather was like and if you were exposed to unusual smells or environments. Knowing your triggers can help you prevent migraines. Your doctor also may prescribe different medicines or combinations of medicines. Doing this helps sort out which will be most effective for preventing migraines or stopping them when they start.

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