Migraine belongs to the primary forms of headaches characterized by recurrent attacks of severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation usually on one side of the head following an aura of sensory disturbances in advance. Migraines usually are going along with nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The extreme pain that migraines cause can last for hours or even days.
To know about the difference between a migraine attack and a headache is important, because different type of headaches require different type of treatment regimes.
If you suffer regular from headaches keep a diary regarding your symptoms noting the time of onset, any triggers, the duration of the headaches, the severity of headaches, any associated symptoms, medications taken to relieve headache symptoms, possible triggers and the relationship to menstruation.
The underlying reasons causing migraines are poorly understood. Genetics, environmental factors, changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved.
According to the statistics approximately 12 percent of the population aged 15 to 55 years is affected by migraines.
Fast facts on migraines:
- Trigger factors can often be identified such as cheese, chocolate, red wine, emotional stress, depression, anxiety, hormonal changes for example during menstruation, insufficient sleep, jet lag, dehydration, hormone replacement therapy or contraceptive pills.
- Risk factors include a positive family history and female gender.
- Warning symptoms before the start of the migraine headache are called aura. These can include flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision, blind spots or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg and speech disturbances. They are gradually building up over several minutes and lasts for 20 to 60 minutes.
- A full-blown attack can be prevented by recognizing and acting upon the warning signs.
- There are a variety of specific treatments available as well for prevention.
- Migraine hangover or postdrome is the final phase characterized by feeling drained and washed out, dizzy, weak, moody and tired.
- Chronification – if you are affected for more than 15 days a month for more than 3 months.
- Status migrainosus – if your migraine attacks last for longer than 3 days.
- Persistent aura without infarction.
- Migrainous infarction -stroke.
During the initial diagnosis of migraines maybe further tests are suggested to exclude differential diagnosis. These can include Electroencephalography (EEG), laboratory tests, x-ray, CT or MRi scans of brain and neck or a spinal tap.
Prevention by lifestyle modifications:
- Daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals.
- Regular Exercises
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding certain foods
- Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS) – (Cefaly), similar to a headband with attached electrodes.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy.