What is a migraine?
Migraines are sudden bouts of painful, throbbing, pulsating and often pounding headaches which recur periodically. These headaches are usually one-sided. The pain usually switches sides from one migraine attack to the other. Attendant symptoms of migraines are “vegetative” accompaniments such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness as well as sensitivity to light and noise.
How common are migraines?
Roughly every eighth German suffers from migraines. The migraines begin between the ages of 10 and 20 in most cases and occur most often in 20 to 40 year olds. Two thirds of those who suffer from migraines are women. Some of those affected only have a few migraine attacks each year whilst others get four or more attacks a month.
Causes of Migraines
The brain reacts excessively to stress, hormones or any other trigger factors. During a migraine attack the blood vessels widen more than usual and become easily permeable. Substances in the blood leak through the permeable blood vessels into the meningeal (brain) tissue. The very sensitive network of nerves in the meninges becomes irritated. This causes migraine pain. Alone the normal blood pulsation of the arteries in the head can cause unbearable pain.
Types of Migraines
There is a differentiation amongst the following types of migraines:
This kind of migraine usually occurs in the early hours of the morning and is usually a pulsating, throbbing or penetrative type of headache which is associated with accompaniments such as nausea or a loss of appetite. These kinds of headaches last 6 to 48 hours and are worsened by physical activity.
Classic Migraine = Migraine with an Aura
Neurological deficits and irritation usually occur before and sometimes during the headache and last for about 30 minutes. This phase occurs prior to getting the migraine attack and is called an aura. The classic migraine begins with impaired vision and is then followed by the headache. Other neurological deficits may also occur such as disturbances in the sense of touch, paralysis, double vision, loss of balance and speech difficulties.
Similar to the classical migraine neurological deficits occur. However, during complicated migraines the neurological deficits can last longer than 24 hours.
Trigger Factors of Migraines
Migraines can be caused by various situations and stimuli.
- Stimuli such as noise, flickering lights
- Hormonal fluctuations (menstrual cycles)
- Too much or too little sleep
- Foods such as red wine, cheese, chocolate, coffee etc…
Whoever knows the trigger factors of their migraines has a good chance of weakening or even avoiding attacks. Migraine attacks can be avoided by a regulated lifestyle, endurance sports and avoiding alcoholic beverages.
Migraines are not curable however the attacks can be weakened or prevented. Doctors who are treating migraines can give specific medication which can not only help with the prevention of migraines but also to ease the pain during an attack.
Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain, David Buchholz
Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches : What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know
Migraine and Other Headaches (Aan Press Quality of Life Guide), M.D. William B. Young, M.D. Stephen D. Silberstein