A Comprehensive Guide to Migraines

A Comprehensive Guide to Migraines post thumbnail image

According to the research, migraine affects nearly 4.9 million people in Australia. A migraine is a headache that usually causes severe pain and may last for several hours and sometimes even for days. While you may not consult your family physician or a general physician for regular headaches, irregular or consistent migraines may require a check-up. In this blog, you will learn more about migraines and what you can do about them.

What Is a Migraine?

A migraine causes throbbing pain and pressure on one side of the head that can be anywhere from mild to severe. The condition can last from a few hours to several days and can affect your daily routine. Although a migraine usually affects one side of the head, it can spread to the other side. It could be genetic and can affect individuals of almost all age groups. In young children and teenagers, the condition goes undiagnosed and untreated as it is misunderstood to be a regular headache or weakness.  If you are getting more than two severe headaches per week and you are using medicines such as painkillers almost every day, you need to consult your healthcare provider.

Different Types Of Migraines

 There are many different types of migraines but let’s take a look at the two most common types:

Different Types For Migraine
  • Migraine Without Aura- Also known as common or typical migraine, this type of migraine has no “aura”. Aura refers to a “warning” that leads to a migraine attack. Common migraines are usually accompanied by confusion, fatigue, blurred vision and nausea. About 80 per cent of migraines are common.
  • Migraine With Aura– Also referred to as classic migraine or complicated migraine, this type of migraine has an aura before the headache strikes and is more severe than typical migraines.
  • Menstrual Migraine– This type of migraine is also known as hormone headache and is usually linked with a female’s menstrual cycle. Migraines that occur with the period cycle can be particularly intense and difficult to treat. 
  • Chronic Migraine – As the name suggests, chronic migraine involves having an episode of a severe headache more than fifteen times each month for a period of three months or more. 
  • Silent or Acephalgic Migraine – It is a type of migraine that occurs without a headache but presents an aura and other aspects of a common migraine. 
  • Migraine With Brainstem Aura– It is a very rare type of migraine that can lead to severe neurological symptoms.

Causes of Migraines

The exact causes of migraine is not identified but researchers and doctors believe that the medical condition is due to abnormalities in the brain chemicals. There are also various factors that trigger a migraine. All these factors differ from person to person, and include the following – 

  • Anxiety 
  • Stress 
  • Skipped meals 
  • Loud noises 
  • Use of certain medications 
  • Strong smells 
  • Flashing or bright lights 
  • Medication overuse 
  • Hormonal changes in females 
  • Irregular blood sugar levels 
  • Oversleeping 
  • Dehydration 

Some individuals have pointed out that certain food items or ingredients can cause severe headaches, especially when combined with other triggers. Some of these ingredients and foods include: 

  • Yeast 
  • Alcohol 
  • Aged cheeses 
  • Some nuts and fruits 
  • Processed meats 

Risk Factors for Migraines 

As covered above, nearly 4.9 million people in Australia get migraines. They can affect people of all ages, but you are more likely to get them if you: 

  • Have A Family History of Migraines – Migraines seem to run in families. Most migraine sufferers have one or more close blood relatives who have migraines. 
  • Are a Female – These medical conditions are more common in women. For women suffering from migraines, episodes of headaches may occur before or shortly after the period starts. The majority of females who have migraines see improvement once they reach menopause. 
  • Have Other Health Problems – Such as sleep disorders, fibromyalgia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders.

Symptoms of Migraines

The symptoms of migraine can occur in certain stages, though you might not be familiar with all of them.

Symptoms of Migraines

1. Prodrome

The first phase begins a day or two before getting a migraine, and you might notice some early signs and symptoms such as  

  • Constipation 
  • Anxiety 
  • Food cravings 
  • Moodiness 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Depression 
  • Crankiness

2. Aura

As mentioned, aura refers to a “warning” that leads to a migraine attack. Most individuals do not experience an aura and some have both a headache and aura at the same time. The symptoms usually last 30 minutes to an hour. If you have this phase, you might notice: 

  • Loss of vision 
  • Trouble walking 
  • Uncontrollable movements 
  • Weakness on one side of the body

3. Headache

This phase involves severe headaches that can last from four hours to up to three days. Nausea and vomiting are the common symptoms of this phase and most people may feel sensitive to smell, movement, light and sound.

4. Postdrome

In this phase, you may feel confused, weak and exhausted throughout the day. It is often referred to as a migraine hangover and a large percentage of people who have migraines experience it.

Diagnosis For Migraines

In most people, especially children and teenagers, migraines often go undiagnosed and untreated, as it is brushed off as a typical headache. But receiving an accurate diagnosis can help prevent discomfort and improve the quality of life of many sufferers. There is no specific test to diagnose migraines, but to make a diagnosis of this condition, your doctor will: 

  • Ask about the symptoms you are experiencing 
  • Perform a physical and neurological examination 
  • Take your personal as well as your family’s medical history 

A few more tests such as MRI, Spinal Tap, Blood tests, and CT scans can also be suggested by your health care provider to rule out other causes of your pain.

Treatment For Migraines

Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines.  However, the condition can be managed by having a healthy lifestyle and the right medications. To help manage migraine symptoms, a healthcare provider may prescribe you nasal sprays or oral medications. Additionally, yoga or exercises such as cycling, jogging and swimming can greatly benefit people suffering from migraines. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Migraines 

Here you can find answers to some of the FAQs about migraines.

What Are The Main Causes of Migraines?

Currently, the exact cause of migraines is unknown but health professionals believe that changes in the brain, abnormalities in brain chemicals, genetics and various environmental factors may play a big role.

Who Suffers More, Women or Men?

Women are more than three times as likely to get migraines than men.

What is the Difference Between Migraines and Headaches?

A migraine is much more than a regular or common headache. A migraine is an intense type of headache or head pain that typically affects one side of the head. It can even affect a person’s daily life.

The Bottom Line

As you know now, a migraine is a medical condition that involves a throbbing headache and many other symptoms. If you are struggling with the symptoms of migraine or have concerns, contact a healthcare professional right away.

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