Tell most people the word ‘migraine’ and immediately they think ‘headache’. But the pain in the head is just one of many symptoms of migraine headaches, which is a neurological disorder. The migraine is a relapse, thriving, usually unilateral, headache. Usually has moderate to high intensity and, in most cases can be aggravated by everyday, simple, physical activity. The treatment of migraine headaches includes medication and other more natural methods.
Symptoms of migraine headaches
Headache causes include nausea and vomiting, and intolerance to light, sounds and smells. In some cases there are disturbances of vision, as illumination. These visual disturbances called “aura” and they are presented to the 15% of migraine sufferers.
The migraine occurs three times more often in women than in men. Estimated that 18% of women and 6% of men suffer from migraines. If you know someone who has migraine headache crises probably you can understand how painful and debilitating they are. The migraine can have serious negative effects on all aspects of our life.
What are the symptoms of migraine headaches?
Learning the symptoms of migraine headaches, you can easily see if your headaches are migraines or not.
Usually in the migraine headache pains begins as dull and develops vibrant, pulsating pain. The pain can be transferred from one side of the head to another and can be found in front of or around the head. The frequency of migraines crisis varies considerably from person to person. Many patients experience two to four migraine crises a month. Some, however, may have migraines every few days, while in others they appear only once or twice a year.
When the pain is identified on one side of the head then this is the most easily recognizable symptom of migraine, but not the only one. The migraine may also be accompanied by:
The aura is a phase of migraine headache crisis that occurs in a small percentage of sufferers. The symptoms may include impairment of vision, hearing, smell, taste or touch. The aura may last from minutes to an hour. The visual aura is the most common type of aura and can include illumination or sparking figures (moving right before your eyes) in your vision.
Intolerance to light, sounds, odours or movement.
Other symptoms associated with migraine headaches may be:
Stomach discomfort, abdominal pain
Loss of appetite
Duration of a migraine headache crisis
A migraine episode can last for days and can present up to four phases. Knowing and understanding your migraine will help you to control it better. The phases of migraine headaches can be classified into 4 stages.
Phase 1: Before the headache
This phase may precede the event 24 hours or more. Some patients feel euphoria, fatigue, diarrhoea, intense thirst or hunger.
Phase 2: Aura
It may be visual, sensory, or mixed and it is present in 15% of the cases
Phase 3: Headache
The headache is usually located on one side of the head and lasts for a few hours to three days. Symptoms include:
Intolerance to light
Intolerance to sounds
Intolerance to odours
Nausea and / or vomiting
Intolerance to movement (the pain worsens with physical movement, such as when climbing stairs)
Phase 4: After the headache
This phase follows the phase of the headache and lasts a few hours to several days. When the headache of the migraine is over, many patients report that they feel exhausted and weak, or too happy.
Migraine headache causes
The mechanisms involved in the migraine headaches remain unknown for many years. Today, scientific research gradually exposed the individual aspects of these mechanisms.
What starts a migraine headache crisis?
Under the influence of a stimulus (e.g. a component of a food), you brain secretes substances called ‘Amines’. The ‘amines act as messengers and stimulate the arteries found in the brain shell. The arteries are shaking, increasing the supply of blood and allowing the passage of various substances that cause pain.
In some people, prone to migraine headaches, this series of processes can be triggered when any part of the brain is stimulated. The stimuli differ from patient to patient, but the most common are the following foods and beverages:
Cheese and other dairy products
Coffee and tea (caffeine)
Citrus fruits and juices
Nitrates, which can be processed into food
Not all patients show sensitivity to foods. Some find that their migraine headaches are probably initiated by hormonal changes associated with menstruation (period), menopause, taking contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. Other known irritant factors include emotional tension, hunger (including diet aimed at weight loss and fasting for religious reasons), various medications (prescription or otherwise), environmental factors, such as change of weather, altitude or time zone, the smell of strong perfumes and deodorants or simply fatigue.
Migraine Headaches diagnosis
If you seek help, choose a qualified professional who is aware that migraine is a severe disorder – not just a simple “headache”.
Because there are many people who suffer from migraine headaches, it is very likely that you have relatives or friends suffering from the disease. Many of them (if not all) will offer to diagnose what is happening with your case. Although these suggestions are undoubtedly with good intentions, the migraine needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. The doctor has the necessary training and knowledge for this purpose. The basis for migraine cure with guaranteed success is the correct diagnosis.
If you suffer from migraine headache symptoms, the first thing you should do is to visit a neurologist, who may make an examination to confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment.
Migraine headaches treatment
There are many drugs used for headache cure. Generally, medicines against migraine are divided into two categories: drugs for the treatment of seizures (e.g., acetylsalicylic acid, triptans) and medicines to help prevent migraines crises (e.g. beta-blocking, anti-epileptics).
Medications for the treatment of migraine headaches
Simple analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory are effective in some patients with mild migraines. The most known medication for this case is aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine. Be careful when taking such medicines, because sometimes may worsen the headache, or their misuse can cause chronic headaches. If you are taking such medications more than three times a week you should see your doctor. (CAUTION: You should always consult your doctor before taking any medication).
Specific drugs for the treatment of migraine headaches, when the simple analgesics fail to relieve the migraines the doctor will recommend more specific drugs for the treatment of migraine headaches.
Triptans are drugs that have been created specifically for the immediate treatment of migraine headache crisis. These drugs shrink the vessels of the brain and they bring the situation to a normal status by relieving the pain. They are also effective in treating the symptoms of migraine headaches like nausea and intolerance to light. The triptans must be taken immediately after the migraine headaches crisis. This way will be more efficient and will last longer.
Non-pharmaceutical methods for the treatment of migraine headaches
There are other, practical ways that can smoother the symptoms of a migraine headache, such as cold compresses, or to lie down in a dark room.
Identifying and avoiding the factors that cause a migraine headache crisis may reduce the frequency of migraines crisis. You can record when you have a headache so as to locate the migraine headache symptoms that are applicable for your case.
If you can remember what you eat before a crisis that can help you locate the causes of the headache and to make the necessary changes in your diet to avoid these stimuli in the future. Stress management techniques and be able to manage stress with relaxation techniques can help to prevent crises or to reduce their significance. Women who suffer from frequent migraines headaches associated with their menstruation cycle can take preventive actions before their period.
It also appears that patients with migraine headaches experience fewer crises when they take their meals at regular hours and rest sufficiently. Regular exercise may also help prevent migraines.
Some medications can prevent the occurrence of migraine headache crises or to reduce their intensity or frequency. Your doctor may recommend medication when:
The headaches are severe
The migraine crises occur more frequently than two or three times a month
The headaches cause major problems in everyday activities
Medicines to treat the acute phase of migraine headache crisis are ineffective or cause unacceptable side effects.
Preventive medication reduces the frequency, severity and duration of headaches and is usually taken on a regular, daily basis. This may reduce the need for drugs to treat the acute phase of a migraine crisis or to improve the way patients respond to these drugs.
For the prevention of migraine headaches many different kinds of medicines are used. Possible options are: (CAUTION: You should always consult your doctor before taking any medication).
Antihypertensive drugs such as propranolol and metoprololi
Antidepressants such as amitriptylini
Anticonvulsants such as topiramate
Always consult your doctor to determine whether prophylactic medication is right for you.
What is the impact of migraine headaches in your life?
If you know someone who has frequent migraine headaches, you can understand how painful and debilitating they can be and the serious impact they have on all aspects in someone’s life.
The migraine headache crises can last several days and, in many cases cannot be fully cured. Often, the patient is forced to cancel activities, professional and personal, which may create problems in relations with colleagues and family members.
This article described in simple terms the symptoms of migraine headaches and also gave an outline of migraine headaches treatment.