Migraines are very severe headaches that are accompanied by nausea and vomiting and sometimes also by visual disturbance and a dislike of bright light.
They affect around 36 million people in the USA, including children, and they can result in reduced quality of life, disrupted family time and missed education and working days.
There are two types of migraine, migraine with aura and migraine without aura. If you have a migraine with aura you will experience visual disturbances such as flashing lights and blurred vision and other associated neurological symptoms such as numbness or weakness on one side of the body.
These symptoms will begin prior to the headache starting. If you have migraine without aura you will not have these preceding symptoms, although you may feel tired or anxious beforehand.
Main symptoms are:
• Very severe, throbbing headache that gets worse if you try to move
• Pain can be felt on one side of the head, or sometimes both
• Aversion to bright light
The migraine can continue for hours or even several days. After the migraine is over, you may feel exhausted and weak for a day or two.
What Causes Migraine?
The causes haven’t been absolutely confirmed, but increased blood flow to the vessels of the brain is thought to be implicated. This dilation of vessels causes severe pain. Several things can trigger this process, including hormones, stress and depression, lack of sleep and diet. Certain foods are known to trigger migraine. Coffee, chocolate, cheese and alcohol are common culprits.
How is Migraine Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose migraine by taking a medical history and asking questions about your symptoms. If there is any doubt as to the cause of your symptoms, you may be offered an MRI scan to rule out more serious causes, such as brain tumor.
He may offer you tablets called triptans which if used during the initial stages of a migraine, will usually abort it before it progresses.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can be used to relieve pain during a migraine that has progressed.