Millions of people suffer from migraine headaches, with estimates from approximately 11 percent to 20 percent of the population depending on what source you use. Migraines are three times more common in women than they are in men.
Migraine is a type of headache, but it is also a medical condition. Migraines can be severe. Pain is often on one side of the head, and vision is affected. They are usually accompanied by symptoms such as visual changes, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. Some people see flashing lights, waves of heat, or spots as the migraine comes on.
Migraines tend to run in families, and get less severe with age. They are the most disabling form of headache, meaning they’re bad enough to see a doctor for treatment. They most commonly affect women from 15 to 55 years old.
No one knows exactly what causes migraines, but there are some common triggers that start the pain off for many people:
• lack of or too much sleep
• skipped meals
• bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors
• hormone changes during the menstrual cycle
• stress and anxiety, or relaxation after stress
• weather changes
• alcohol (often red wine)
• caffeine (too much or withdrawal)
• foods that contain nitrates, such as hot dogs and lunch meats
• foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer found in fast foods, broths, seasonings, and spices
• foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish, and Chianti wine
• aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®) (From the NINDS.NIH.GOV/DISORDERS/HEADACHE page.)
To figure out your triggers, keep a migraine diary. Track your intake and migraine symptoms and see if there is a correlation.
Migraines are divided into four phases:
First, the premonitory phase is up to 24 hours before the headache begins. Symptoms may include food cravings, unexplained mood changes, uncontrollable yawning, fluid retention, or increased urination.