More than just a headache but what is it?

"Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It's an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger."

What is migraine?

Migraine is a complex condition with a wide variety of symptoms. For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells,  feeling sick and vomiting. Migraine attacks can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for several hours.

The symptoms will vary from person to person and individuals may have different symptoms during different attacks. Your attacks may differ in length and frequency.

Migraine attacks usually last from 4 to 72 hours and most people are free from symptoms between attacks. Migraine can have an enormous impact on your work, family and social lives.

Types of Migraine:

The two major types of migraine are:

1. Migraine with aura:

previously called classic migraine, includes:

visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that appear about 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache and usually last no more than an hour. Individuals may temporarily lose part or all of their vision.

Other classic symptoms include trouble speaking; an abnormal sensation, numbness, or muscle weakness on one side of the body; a tingling sensation in the hands or face, and confusion. Nausea, vertigo, loss of appetite, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache.

2. Migraine without aura, or common migraine:

is the more frequent form of migraine. Symptoms include:

headache pain that occurs without warning and is usually felt on one side of the head, along with fatigue and associated symptoms seem in classic migraine.

Other types of migraine include:

1. Abdominal migraine:

mostly affects young children and involves moderate to severe pain in the middle of the abdomen lasting 1 to 72 hours
with little or no headache. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many children who develop abdominal migraine will have migraine headaches later in life.

2. Basilar-type migraine:

mainly affects older children and adolescents. Symptoms include partial or total loss of vision or double vision, dizziness and loss of balance, poor muscle coordination, slurred speech, a ringing in the ears, and fainting. The throbbing pain may come on suddenly and is felt on both sides at the back of the head.

Symptoms of basilar-type migraine are more frightening than harmful. There is no evidence that people with basilar-type migraine have a greater risk of stroke.

3. Hemiplegic migraine:

is a rare but severe form of migraine that causes temporary paralysis sometimes lasting several days on one side of the body prior to or during a headache. Symptoms such as vertigo, a pricking or stabbing sensation, and problems seeing, speaking, or swallowing may begin prior to the headache pain and usually stop shortly thereafter.

4. Menstrually-related migraine:

affects women around the time of their period, although most women with menstrually-related migraine also have migraines at other times of the month. Symptoms may include migraine without aura (which is much more common during menses than migraine with aura), pulsing pain on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound and light.

5. Retinal migraine :

is a condition characterized by attacks of visual loss or disturbances in one eye plus the pain phase of a migraine attack.
The attacks are very similar in either eye. These attacks, like the more common visual auras, are usually associated with migraine headaches.

6. Status migrainous:

is a rare and severe type of acute migraine in which disabling pain and nausea can last 72 hours or longer. The pain and nausea may be so intense that sufferers need to be hospitalized.

The signs and symptoms of a typical migraine headache in children are:

  1. Sleepiness or listlessness.
  2. Yawning.
  3. Craving for hot-dogs, bananas, yogurt, chocolate and sugary snacks.
  4. Nausea and vomiting.
  5. Sensitivity to light and sound.
  6. Severe headache on both sides of the head.

Occurrence of visual aurgraines in children tend to be of short duration, but they could cause your child to miss some school days.

Causes of Migraine:

A migraine can start and end at any time. There can be a total cessation of the headache altogether too. You cannot pinpoint any particular cause for your migraine.

Doctors advise you to maintain a regular chronological journal of your lifestyle patterns, food intake, and other activities to show up possible causes.

A few possible causes are:

  1. Irregular and insufficient sleep patterns.
  2. Strong perfumes, air fresheners or incense sticks.
  3. Insufficient intake of healthy food.
  4. Long and stressful driving.
  5. Prolonged viewing of television or exposure to computers.
  6. Excessive stress.
  7. Alcoholic beverages.

Headache or migraine?

Distinguishing between different types of headache can be difficult. You can experience different types of headaches
at different times of your life for varying reasons.

For example: if you have migraine you may also experience other types of headache.

Diagnosis of a Migraine:

Doctors conduct thorough physical and neurological examinations and review your medical history and background. Some headaches could be due to certain irregularities in your skull or brain. Imaging techniques like MRI and CT scans
can reveal these abnormalities. But, if there are no revelations in your scans and you still suffer from severe headaches, doctors may diagnose a migraine.

Phases of Migraine:

A migraine is divided into four phases, all of which may or may not be present during the attack:

1.  Premonitory symptoms occur up to 48 hours prior to developing a migraine:

These include food cravings, unexplained mood changes (depression or euphoria), uncontrollable yawning, fluid retention, or increased urination.

A. Aura:

Some people will see flashing or bright lights or what looks like heat waves 10-12 minutes prior to or during the migraine, while others may experience muscle weakness or the sensation of being touched or grabbed.

B. Headache:

Headache pain usually starts gradually and builds in intensity. It is associated with increased sensitivity to light and/or noise. It is possible, however, to have migraine without a headache.

2. Postdrome (following the headache):

Individuals are often exhausted or confused following a migraine. The postdrome period may last up to a day before people feel healthy.

Migraine Treatments:

There a numerous migraine treatment options available from conventional medicines to supplements, herbs and other options.

Migraine treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing additional attacks. Quick steps to ease symptoms may include napping or resting with eyes closed in a quiet, darkened room; placing a cool cloth or ice pack on the forehead, and drinking lots of fluid, particularly if the migraine is accompanied by vomiting. Small amounts of caffeine may help relieve symptoms during a migraine's early stages.

Drug therapy for migraine is divided into acute and preventive treatment. Acute or "abortive" medications can relieve
pain and restore function when taken as soon as symptoms occur. Preventive treatment involves taking medicines daily to reduce the severity of future attacks or occurrence.

Resource: http://www.ninds.nih.gov

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