A migraine is a throbbing, intense headache in one half of the head. It can affect people of all ages. The cause of migraine is not known. During an attack, the blood vessels in the brain dilate and then draw together with stimulation of nerve endings near the affected blood vessels. These changes to the blood vessels are probably what cause the pain. But migraine is still a condition that is poorly understood.
What are the typical features of migraine?
· People often use the word ‘migraine’ to refer to headaches of many different types. So-called ‘classical’ migraine attacks have several features:
· Headaches that occur in bouts of between roughly 4 to 72 hours
· The headaches usually affect one side of the head at a time, although both sides may be affected in separate attacks
· The headaches are usually throbbing and worsened by normal physical activity nausea and/or vomiting
· Preceding symptoms, called ‘aura’, that most often are visual, such as zigzag lines or flashing lights across or at the edges of the fields of vision
· Other symptoms can include sensitivity to light and sound, or non-visual aura such as a sensation of tingling in the body.
· Only about 15 per cent of people experience visual aura before an attack. ‘Common migraine’ refers to the majority who have all the other symptoms but no aura.
· Rarely some people with migraine experience transient loss of power of a limb with severe attacks, or temporary difficulty with speech.
· In addition to an interview, the doctor should also perform a physical examination. If there is any doubt about the diagnosis, the doctor will refer the patient to an expert on diseases of the brain (neurologist).
What causes migraines?
Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include:
· Allergies and allergic reactions
· Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors or perfumes
· Physical or emotional stress
· Changes in sleep patterns or irregular sleep
· Smoking or exposure to smoke
· Skipping meals or fasting
· Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, hormone fluctuations during menopause onset
· Tension headaches
· Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami).