It has been observed that almost 30 million people in the United States suffer from migraine. Also, in comparison to men, women are more prone to migraine. Migraines are basically pulsating headaches that generally occur on only one side of the head. This pain may intensify with physical activity. There are also other types of migraines, such as abdominal, hormonal and hemiplegic.
What are the different symptoms that may appear before a migraine attack?
There is a certain set of warning symptoms that occurs when experiencing a classic migraine. These warning symptoms are also known as an aura. They start appearing before the general symptoms of a migraine, and may last for an hour. At least one in three people experience these signs of an aura before a migraine attack.
Below are some of the common aura symptoms.
- Visual disturbances like flashing or flickering lights, blurred vision, zigzag lines, temporary blindness
- Numbness or a tingling sensation usually in the face, hands or arms
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- Problem with co-ordination.
What are the symptoms of migraine?
Migraine attacks can happen at any time. It is sometimes even possible to sense when a migraine attack is going to start. As opposed to an aura, it includes signs like lack of concentration, irritability, food cravings and tiredness.
Some general symptoms of migraine have been mentioned below:
- A headache lasts from 4 to 72 hours
- Pulsating or throbbing pain just on one side of the head
- Headache that gets worse during physical activity
- Feeling sick or nauseous
- Sensitivity to light and noise.
In most cases, a visit to the general practitioner is not required if a person has minor migraine headaches. However, it is necessary to visit a GP if:
- Migraines become more frequent or worsen over time
- The person is over 50 and hasn’t experienced a migraine before
- Experiences aura symptoms which last for more than an hour.
What are the other important facts about migraine?
There is a possibility that a migraine lasting for more than 72 hours may go away on its own. This type of migraine is known as status migrainosus. It is necessary to visit a general practitioner if the migraine doesn’t go even after 72 hours. When a person gets migraines frequently for more than 15 days every month, then that type is known as a chronic migraine. It may require consumption of an increased amount of medicines, which may subsequently lead to further headaches known as medication-overuse headaches. This can even increase the risk of anxiety, depression, panic disorders and stroke.
What causes migraine?
There isn’t any definite origin of a migraine, but it may be caused by a chemical known as serotonin. It has been found that low levels of serotonin can cause changes in the blood vessels in the brain. However, it is not yet known what exactly causes the serotonin levels to change.
The most common triggers of migraine are mentioned below.
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Poor posture or strain in the neck and shoulders
- Certain foods or drinks like chocolate, cheese, alcohol and caffeine
- Loud noises
- Bright or flickering lights
- Certain smells
- Strenuous exercise
- Skipping meals
- Not drinking enough fluid.
It is advisable to keep a diary, which tracks the symptoms of migraine and what triggers or worsens it. It is essential to record all its symptoms, the amount of time it lasts and the medication used when the migraine strikes. Tracking all this in a diary can help in determining the exact things that trigger the migraine or make it worse. Also, it would be a good idea to use a cold compress, such as an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel for reducing the throbbing headache.
Apart from these self-help solutions, a person suffering from migraine could also opt for drugs available for relieving the pain caused during a migraine attack. There are various medicines available for migraine amongst which the most commonly used is Imigran, also known as sumatriptan or triptan. It narrows the blood vessels in the brain, thus reducing the pain caused by migraine attacks. A dose of Imigran is recommended when a person experiences a migraine attack. However, consult your general practitioner before taking this medicine.