What to do About Migraine Headaches

A migraine is an intense, recurring, usually one-sided headache that lasts for hours or days. Mostly, it is throbbing, sometimes with other symptoms such as vomiting, aura, and visual disturbance. Globally about 1 in 6 people affected.

The course of the Migraine Headache

There are four phases of migraines. However, you not always go through every phase each time. The typical migraine attack begins with visual disturbances. The attack may last for 3 to 48 hours.

Prodrome

This phase starts up to 24 hours before you get the attack. You may experience food cravings, mood changes, uncontrollable yawning, fluid retention, or increased urination.

Aura

If you have this phase, you might see flashing or bright lights or zig-zag lines. You may have muscle weakness or feel like you are being touched or grabbed. An aura can happen just before or during a migraine.

Headache

A migraine usually starts gradually and then becomes more severe. That is followed in about twenty minutes by a raging or a throbbing headache over one side. A throbbing headache is usually half-sided and it is worsened when you move, cough, or sneeze. Often nausea and vomiting accompany the pain. You might also have increased sensitivity to light, noise, and odors.

Postdrome

You may feel exhausted, weak, and confused after a migraine. This can last up to a day.

Migraines are more common in the morning. Often people often wake up with migraines. Some people have migraines at predictable times, such as before menstruation or on weekends following a stressful week of work [1].

What causes migraines

The cause of migraine attacks is unknown for the time being. However, we know that there is a relationship between the state of the cerebral arteries and migraines. The swelling of the inner surface of the blood vessel causes contraction of the muscles in the arteries. The contraction causes blood supply disruption in the brain. Repeat, sudden enlargement of the arteries, and increased blood flow is the possible cause for the migraine headaches [2].

What triggers migraines

Many events may trigger contractions of cerebral arteries such as food, hunger, weather changes, alcohol consumption, smoking, physical or psychological stress.

Migraines are also associated with anxiety, depression, bipolar, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Migraine Symptoms

  • visual disturbance
  • a headache that starts on one side
  • increased light and noise sensitivity
  • half-face numbness or tingling
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea and strong urination
  • palpitation
  • fatigue
  • irritability

Hormonal effects

Migraines are more common among women than men. Because attacks occur many times around the menstrual cycle, hormones must play a role in the development of a migraine headache.
Migraines after menopause support the hormonal theory. Contraceptives, on the contrary, increase the tendency to have migraines.

What helps the headaches

When the headache onsets, feel free to take some over the counter painkillers like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol or the medicine prescribed by your doctor without any hesitation.

When to see a doctor?

If you have migraines regularly, you should contact your doctor, regardless of how often a headache strikes.

Migraine Treatment

Initial treatment is painkiller medication.  Ergotamine and caffeine are also useful as a second-line treatment. Another purpose of the treatment is to find and eliminate the factors that can trigger headaches. Metoprolol, Valproate, and Propanolol are effectively preventing attacks.

Avoid any medicine or food that triggers your migraines.  In some cases, acupuncture and homeopathic remedies also have a beneficial effect.

With the help of stress reduction techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and autogenic training,  you can influence your blood circulation at your will.  Also, you can gain more self-control to reduce the number of triggers.

Dangers, possible complications

A migraine is not a dangerous disease, but it is a significant physical and psychological burden for the patient.

References:

  1. Migraine | Medline Plus | https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html
  2. Evaluating Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity During Migraine Headache | Neurology Advisor | https://www.neurologyadvisor.com/topics/migraine-and-headache/evaluating-cerebral-blood-flow-velocity-during-migraine-headache/