June 24, 2024

Migraine Headaches: Causes, Treatment & Symptoms

If you suffer from migraines, you know that migraine headaches can be very painful.  Migraine is a type of headache in which severe pain occurs intermittently on both or one side of the head.  Migraines last from 2 hours to several days.  Migraine headaches are more common than other headaches. 


Migraine is basically a neurological problem.  The production of certain neurotransmitters in the body may also cause migraines.  During migraine, there is increased blood circulation in the brain, due to which the person starts having severe headache.


Migraine patients describe migraine pain as follows:

  • Strong regular rhythm feeling in the head
  • Repeated and heavy striking or hitting of someone or something.
  • Feeling weakness
  • Throbbing

It can also feel like a severe constant pain.  The pain may start out mild, but become moderate to severe if left untreated.

Migraine pain most commonly affects the forehead.  It usually occurs on one side of the head, but it can also occur on both sides, or it can shift from one side to the other.

Most migraines last about 4 hours. If left untreated or treatment fails, migraines can last from 72 hours to a week.


The symptoms of migraine are as follows-

  • The throbbing migraine pain in the head mostly starts on one side of the head.
  • People who suffer from migraine headaches usually also experience inability to perform routine activities, eye pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • They may be hypersensitive to light, sound, and odor changes.
  • Unnecessary yawning throughout the day is also a symptom of migraine.
  • People suffering from migraine headaches experience auras i.e. a warning sensation experienced before an attack of migraine. They feel a temporary loss of sensation or a feeling of pins and needles prickling.
  • Due to migraine pain, sleeplessness occurs. Feeling tired but unable to sleep.
  • There is also a terrible pain in the eyes during migraine.  There is a lot of burning sensation even in blinking.
  • Nausea, vomiting along with headache are also symptoms of migraine.
  • Mood changes occur very rapidly during a migraine.  Some patients suddenly feel very depressed or become over-excited for no reason at all.
  • Before migraine pain occurs, some people have an increased craving for food.
  • Migraine pain can also be made worse by routine activities such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • Feeling the need to urinate frequently is also a symptom of migraine.


Why does migraine happen?

A definite cause of migraine has not yet been identified.  However, there are certain factors that can trigger a migraine.  This includes changes in brain chemicals, such as a decrease in serotonin levels.

Factors that trigger migraines include:

  • Bright light
  • Severe heat
  • Dehydration
  • Hormone changes in women, such as fluctuations in progesterone or estrogen during periods, pregnancy or menopause.
  • Excessive stress
  • Loud sound
  • Intense physical activity
  • Skip meals
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Use of certain medications, such as birth control pills or nitroglycerin
  • Unusual smell
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Drinking wine
  • Traveling

If you have migraines, your doctor may ask you to keep a “headache notebook.”  Writing down what you were doing, what you ate, and what medications you were taking before the migraine started can help identify your triggers.


The following efforts may help in preventing migraine –

  • Try to know what triggers your migraines and avoid those things
  • Stay hydrated – try to drink 9-12 cups of water per day
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Get good sleep – Good sleep is important for overall health
  • Quit smoking cigarettes
  • Make stress reduction a priority
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Exercise regularly – Exercise can not only help you reduce stress but can also help you lose weight.  Experts believe that obesity is linked to migraine.


How are Migraines diagnosed?

If you have migraines or have a family history of migraines, a neurologist will diagnose your migraines based on your medical history, symptoms, physical and neurological examinations.

If your condition is unusual and complicated, or your pain gets worse on its own, your doctor will likely recommend further tests to find out the possible causes of your pain.

1). Blood test – The doctor may ask you to get a blood test done, in which the following factors will be examined –

  • Any problems with your blood cells
  • Spinal cord or brain infection
  • The level of toxins in your body

2). MRI – With MRI, the doctor can detect the following conditions.  As if –

  • Tumor
  • Stroke
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Infection
  • Brain and nervous system disease

3). CT Scan – With CT scan, the doctor can find out about the following factors of headache –

  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • Any brain damage
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Other possible medical problem

4). Spinal tap (to collect fluid from the spinal cord and examine it) – If the doctor suspects an infection, bleeding in the brain, or other serious condition, then the doctor may suggest you to have a spinal tap.

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