FAQ’s on Migraine
What is a Migraine?
Migraines are headaches which occur as severe throbbing or pulsing on one side of the head. Almost 12 percent of Americans suffer from migraines with women affected nearly three times more than men. Migraines are repetitive. They are severe enough to affect cognitive ability, sleep patterns and work habits.
Some patients may have migraines as a result of outside influences, which are said to act as triggers on the patient. Common triggers experienced by patient include allergies, bright lights or loud noises, stress, or fluctuations in the hormonal levels of the body. Approximately three out of four patients with migraines will have found them to be a common occurrence in their family history.
What are the causes of Migraines?
The exact causes of migraines remain unknown, as there are a number of potential factors that contribute to their presence. These factors can diff in how they affect patients on an individual basis however, and the exact combination of what it takes to produce migraines differs for each patient. Common theories of causes include afflictions in the blood vessels of the head, but this has been shown to be more of a singular cause of pain (from blood vessel constriction) instead of a primary cause of migraine headaches.
A much more inclusive theory of how migraines occur is that they are the result of a cascade effect occurring between specific chemicals in the body, resulting in an inflammatory response in the head and an excess level of activity in the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is one of the primary pain pathways that provide sensation to the face and head, meaning an affliction of this nerve can cause large amounts of pain to be felt as a headache. Other potential hormonal factors that result in migraines include low levels of serotonin, a deficiency in magnesium (typically from diet), and an alteration in the function of transport cells.
What are the symptoms of Migraines?
The exact symptoms patients will experience during a migraine will vary on an individual basis. Commonly shared symptoms among patients include pain felt as a throbbing or burning sensation in one side of the head, an increase in the amount of pain felt form physical activity and exertion, nausea, vomiting, and some symptoms specific to the type of migraine present. Two of the most prominent types of migraines are those with an aura and those without.
Patients who are experiencing migraines with an aura will have symptoms that commonly appear either just before the headache, or during the headache. These include alterations in the field of vision, blind spots, a feeling of pins and needles in the limbs, and may include flashes of light or the presence of lines in vision.
How is a Migraine diagnosed?
Migraines are diagnosed primarily by comparing the symptoms a patient is experiencing to a list of accepted criteria that has been published by the International Headache Society. Criteria include 5 or more migraine attacks, lasting between 4 hours and 3 days each, with at least 2 occurring with a pulsating quality and moderate to severe pain. At least 1 other symptom, such as vomiting, nausea, or light sensitivity must be present.
What are the treatment options for Migraines?
There is no direct treatment that is able to account for every aspect of a migraine. Common methods of treatment include altering things in a patient’s life that may be triggering migraines, and the administration of pain relievers to assist with symptomatic pains.