Decoding Migraines: What You Need to Know, Causes, Symptoms And More

Migraines can be really uncomfortable over time, and people often mistake them for regular headaches without realising how intense they can be. Migraine is an intense headache with strong head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. It can seriously affect your daily life, making it hard to do things like work, go to school, or enjoy personal activities. Regular headaches, on the other hand, are common and cause pain in the head or neck, but they're not as intense as migraines. Connector has explored the reasons, symptoms, and treatments for migraines to help you understand better.

What Is Migraine

Migraine is a neurological condition that frequently leads to intense headaches. These headaches occur episodically and may be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. The pain is like throbbing on one side of your head and can stick around for hours or days, making it hard to do regular things. Some people know a migraine is coming because they get a warning called an aura. It can mess with your vision, like seeing flashes or blind spots, and make parts of your face or body tingle or be hard to speak.

Migraines often come in the morning, especially when you wake up. Some folks can tell when they'll have a migraine, such as after a stressful work week. After a migraine, you might feel tired, but usually, you're okay until the next time it happens.

What Causes Migraine Attacks?

Doctors are still figuring out the exact cause of migraine headaches, but it's believed to be linked to unusual activity in the brain affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels. Certain things, known as triggers, can set off migraines. These include bright lights, extreme weather, dehydration, hormonal changes, stress, loud sounds, and certain foods or smells. 

Other triggers include things like alcohol, too much caffeine, stress, changes in sleep, intense physical activity, weather changes and certain medications. Keeping track of these triggers can help you understand what causes migraine. 

Who Is More At Risk Of Having Migraine? 

According to National Institute Of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Migraines happen to both children and grown-ups, but they're more common in adult women, affecting them three times more often than men. 

If someone in your family has migraines, there's a good chance you might get them too, as migraines tend to run in families. People with migraines often also have other health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep problems, or epilepsy more frequently than those without migraines. If someone experiences pre-migraine symptoms called aura, there's a slightly higher risk of having a stroke.

Symptoms Of Migraine 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, migraines typically range from moderate to severe intensity and are often described as having a pulsating or pounding sensation. While they commonly affect one side of the head, they can occur in various locations such as the head, neck, face, or even throughout the entire head.

Migraines takes place in four phases: 

  1. Premonitory Symptoms: These occur up to 24 hours before a migraine starts. You might crave certain foods, feel mood changes (like getting really sad or happy), yawn a lot, retain fluids.
  2. Aura: Some people see flashing lights or heat waves right before or during a migraine. Others might feel weak in their muscles or like someone is touching them.
  3. Headache: The migraine usually begins slowly and gets more intense. Surprisingly, it's possible to have a migraine without actually getting a headache.
  4. Post drome: After a migraine, people often feel tired or confused. This post-migraine phase can last up to a day before they start feeling better.

How To Manage Migraine Triggers 

For individuals experiencing migraine triggers, it is crucial to monitor and identify these triggers. Keeping a diary becomes essential to understand the factors contributing to the pain. Record activities leading up to the headache, including details like what you were doing, your diet, the amount of sleep the previous night, and any significant stressors or events from that day. These details serve as essential clues to better understand and manage migraine triggers.

Steps That Can Help You Avoid Migraine Triggers 

- Watch What You Eat: If you experience a headache, jot down the foods and beverages consumed before its onset. If a consistent pattern emerges over time, it's advisable to avoid that particular item.

Reduce Caffeine Intake: For some individuals, regular consumption of caffeine can increase the likelihood of migraines. If you fall into this category, consider gradually reducing your caffeine intake, as abruptly missing your morning coffee can potentially trigger a migraine headache.

- Manage Your Stress: Various approaches can be employed for stress reduction. Engaging in exercise, meditation, prayer, spending time with loved ones, and pursuing enjoyable hobbies are effective methods. If there are aspects of your life causing tension, consider developing a plan to make positive changes. Exploring counselling and stress management classes can be beneficial. 

- Stay Hydrated: Ensure proper hydration by drinking an adequate amount of water, avoid skipping meals, and maintain a disciplined eating routine.

Treatment For Migraine 

There's no solid cure for migraines; however, managing migraines involves working with your doctor to develop a plan that suits your situation. And seeking an effective treatment can help reduce the frequency of attacks and alleviate their severity. The approach depends on factors such as your age, how often you experience migraines, the specific type you have, and their intensity, considering aspects like duration, pain level, and impact on your daily life.

Your treatment plan may incorporate a combination of strategies, including lifestyle adjustments like stress management and avoiding triggers. Over-the-counter pain or migraine medications may also be recommended. 

Your doctor may also suggest prescription medications to address nausea or vomiting associated with migraines, hormone therapy if your migraines coincide with your menstrual cycle, counselling, or alternative care like meditation, acupressure, or acupuncture.

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