Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary
Did you know that migraine is the 3rd most prevalent neurological disease in the world? Often ignored and hard to diagnose migraine can be really painful.
Severe headache accompanied with nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling sensation, sensitivity to light and sound are all common symptoms of migraine. Migraine attacks can be really severe in nature marked by horrible and unbearable headaches. A migraine patient fears even the word, living with migraine is not an easy job. With no permanent cure available with us managing your health is the best option.
The most important rule of any war is proper knowledge about your enemy. Knowing your enemy inside out is half battle won. Similarly to defeat migraine it is important to understand all about it. Starting from it’s symptoms, types, diagnosis and ways to manage, it is extremely crucial to know it all. Let us together tread on the path of understanding migraine better to defeat it.
What Is Migraine?
Migraine is a type of neurological disease, with extremely sapping neurological symptoms. For a lot of people it is a chronic disease that can affect their quality of life. Constant dreadful bouts of migraine attacks accompanied with nausea, vomiting etc. can make life really difficult. People of all age groups are victims of this health problem. Migraines can occur in early childhood or late adulthood. Women are much prone to migraines than males and family history is one of the major causing factor.
Inorder to identify a migraine attack, one needs to be aware of the symptoms identified with migraine.
Symptoms of Migraine
The common migraine symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Numbness or Tingling
- Difficulty speaking
- Sensitivity to light and sound
There are different types of migraines, and hence the symptoms vary.
Migraines are identified on the basis of stages which are divided into four phases. Each phase is identified with a different set of symptoms and can help understand the process of onset of the problem.
The 4 phases of Migraine
The phase that occurs a day or two before the attack. The patient might notice elusive changes which are warning signs of an upcoming migraine attack. These commonly include:
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Mood changes
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
This phase occurs before or during the migraine attack and has the symptoms of the nervous system. Most of the people experience migraine without the aura. They mostly include:
- Visual disturbances like flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision
- Speech disturbances
- Tingling or prickly sensation in arms or leg
- Feeling of weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
- Sensitivity to noises or music
- Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
A migraine usually lasts for 4 to 72 hours if left untreated and their frequency varies from person to person. These attacks can be rare or strike several times a month. The common symptoms include:
- Pain on one side or at times on both sides of the head
- Throbbing or pulsating headache
- Sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred visions
- Light headedness, followed with fainting
It is the final phase which occurs after the attack. For almost 24 hours, a person may feel
- Drained and washed out
Diagnosis of Migraine
Migraines mostly remain undiagnosed and untreated in a lot of cases. If a person regularly experiences signs and symptoms of migraine, then it is essential to keep track of the attacks and seek proper medical advice. Incase of any change in the pattern of the headaches, it is necessary to consult a doctor.
Any of the following symptoms can be an alarming sign and require immediate medical attention:
- An abrupt, severe headache that feels like a thunderclap
- Headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck, double vision, seizures, weakness or trouble speaking
- Headaches after head injury
- Chronic headache that worsens up after coughing, exertion, straining or sudden movements
- Severe headache experienced by an elderly
Causes of Migraine
The cause of a migraine is unknown but believed to be the result of abnormal brain activity. The common etiological factors include:
- Gender: Females are more prone to migraine attacks
- Genes: Migraine can be hereditary
- Age: Migraine headaches can start at any age, but they mostly start in teens
- Hormonal changes: Females on birth control pills or hormonal replacement therapy can have the worst migraine attacks
Certain factors can trigger migraine attacks. Hence to keep them under control, it is essential to keep a check on the pattern of the attacks and the factors causing them. Some of the triggers include:
- Emotional stress, anxiety, depression, shock
- Hormonal problems during menstruation
- Certain foods can trigger migraine-like salty foods, processed foods, blue cheese, artificial sweeteners etc.
- Skipping meals
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Bright lights or sound and strong smells
- Changes in the sleep pattern, like getting too much or too little sleep
- Physical strain like an intense workout, heavy exercise
- Weather changes
There is no available treatment for the cure of migraine, the treatment includes symptomatic treatment and proper health management.
Steps To Manage Migraine
Migraine can be diagnosed on the basis of clinical symptoms experienced by the patients. At times the doctor can advise CT or MRI, to rule out the other causes of a headache. Lifestyle alterations can help in reducing the frequency of migraine attacks. These changes include:
- Keeping a track on the pattern of a headache
- Maintaining a proper sleep pattern
- Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Reducing the stress levels by doing exercises or yoga, meditation
- Correct vitamin and mineral intake
- Applying gentle pressure on the face, head and neck can help in easing the pain
- Spinal manipulation: There are certain studies that state this technique can help in preventing headaches
- Talk therapy: Cognitive -behavioral therapy can help in changing the thoughts and action, which result in fewer headaches
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS performed during the aura phase may shorten the length of a headache and make the intensity less.
Migraine can seem invincible. But, proper, regular and effective lifestyle changes can ensure good health and proper management of migraines.
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