Migraines are severe headaches that can cause a pulsing or throbbing sensation. The pain is typically located on one side of the head. It is common for people to experience other symptoms during a migraine such as light or noise sensitivity, vomiting or nausea. Migraine symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Phases of a Migraine
The phases of a migraine are prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome. However, it is important to note that every migraine sufferer does not go through all four of the stages.
The Prodrome Phase
Most migraine sufferers experience the prodrome phase one or two days before they have a migraine. Some of the symptoms that you may have during this phase include mood changes, constipation, neck stiffness and food cravings. You may also be thirstier than usual and urinate more frequently.
The Aura Phase
The aura may occur right before you have a migraine or while you are having it. The sensation is caused by activity of your nervous system. You may experience visual disturbances, speaking problems, uncontrollable jerks as well as pin and needle sensations in your legs and arms.
The Attack Phase
The attack phase is also known as the headache phase. This phase may last anywhere from four hours to 72 hours. You may experience several attacks in one month. In addition to the pain, light sensitivity, vomiting and nausea, you may also experience lightheadedness and fainting.
The Post-drome Phase
The post-drome phase is after the migraine attack. The symptoms you experience during this phase can vary. Some people feel drained. Others feel elated. Confusion, weakness as well as light and sound sensitivity are some of the other things that you may experience.
What are Some of the Possible Migraine Triggers?
One of the key things that you can do to manage the pain is to identify the triggers. Stress is one of the main migraine triggers. In fact, it is estimated that 50 to 70 percent of migraine suffers have pains that are triggered or worsened by the stresses in their lives.
Other possible triggers include changes in sleep patterns, hormonal changes, certain foods, weather changes and dehydration.
Causes of Migraines
Doctors do not know exactly what causes migraines. However, they do believe that it may be caused by changes in the way that trigeminal nerve and the brainstem interact. The brainstem is the lower portion of the brain. The trigeminal nerve is one of the cranial nerves. It is responsible for biting and chewing.
Doctors also believe that a serotonin imbalance may trigger a migraine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls mood. It may also regulate pain. The serotonin levels drop during a migraine.
Risk Factors for Migraines
Genetics can put a person at risk for developing migraines. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of people with migraines have a family history of them. Scientists believe that both genetics and environment both play a role in migraines.
Women have a higher risk for developing migraines because of the hormonal fluctuations that they experience during menstruation and pregnancy. Age is another risk factor. Anyone can develop migraines regardless of their age. However, people who are in their 30s and 40s are more likely to experience them.
It is important to get the proper treatment for a migraine because a number of complications can result. Some studies suggest that people who have migraines are more likely to have an ischemic stroke. This is a type of stroke that occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted. Migraines are also linked to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder and bipolar disorder.
Treatment for Migraines
There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that can be used to manage migraines. Triptans are a class of medication that is often recommended for migraines. They work by blocking the pain of a migraine. They can also reduce other symptoms. Some examples of Triptans include Avert, Relpax, Zomig and Maxalt. They are available in the form of nasal sprays, pills and injections. A prescription is required.
Excedrin is one of the over-the-counter medications that can be used to manage migraines. It is made up of aspirin, caffeine and acetaminophen. They can be used to treat mild to moderate migraines. However, they usually are not effective for severe migraines.
Doctors may also recommend preventive drugs if you are a frequent migraine sufferer. Beta blockers are examples of preventive drugs. Even though beta blockers are usually recommended for heart or blood pressure problems, they can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Betimol, Lopressor and Inderal LA are examples of beta blockers.
Exercising regularly, eating on a regular basis and getting the proper amount of sleep may help prevent migraines. You should also keep a migraine diary. This will help you identify what triggers your migraines. Additionally, yoga, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can be helpful for migraine prevention.