Migraine is defined as a type of primary headache disorder which is categorized by recurrent headaches, ranging from moderate to severe. The throbbing headaches is typically felt in only one side of the head and may last from 2 to 72 hours. Migraine symptoms may include a pounding headache, nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound and smell and eye pain.
Though most people may use the term migraine to refer to any severe headaches, a migraine headache is the result of certain physiologic changes that occur in the brain. This results to the characteristic pain and accompanying symptoms of a migraine.
Not all headaches may be classified as migraine. Migraines are not the only condition that can result to severe or painful headaches. Other types of headaches include cluster headaches and tension headaches. Cluster headaches can be described as very severe headaches that affect one side of the head and are recurrent (occurring in a cluster over time). The pain associated with cluster headaches is sometime described as drilling. They can be worse than a migraine but are less common. Tension headaches, on the other hand, are more common. They occur due to contraction of the muscles of the head including the scalp, neck and face.
Causes of Migraine
Migraines are caused by abnormal brain activity and can be triggered by a lot of things. While the exact cause remains uncertain, most experts say that they begin in the brain, involving nerve pathways and chemicals. There may be fluctuations in certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages between brain cells. The brain's blood flow as well as the surrounding tissues are affected by these changes and may predispose some people to develop migraine headaches.
Migraines tend to occur more in women than men and often first appear between the ages 10 and 45 years. They may sometimes begin earlier or later and may run in families.
Migraine attacks may be triggered by many factors, for example:
- Changes in a woman's hormone levels during a menstrual cycle or use of birth control pills
- Various food such as red wine, cheese, MSG, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, dairy products
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as not getting enough sleep
- Stress and anxiety
- Strong stimuli like loud noises or bright lights
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Missed meals
- Smoking / exposure to smoke
People who suffer from migraines find that the headaches may be lessened with preventative medications and positive lifestyle changes. Controlling your exposure to migraine triggers can help with managing and avoiding the occurrence of migraines. Those with a diagnosis of migraine need to be proactive of how their way of life may impact the frequency and severity of their headaches.
You will always have to face the risk of a migraine attack if you are susceptible to migraine headaches, but safe medication and avoiding triggers are often effective in preventing headache attacks.