Many of us complain of migraine headache, but in reality not every headache we experience is migraine.
Specialists have developed special criteria to determine, whether a patient has migraine or any other type of headache.
Migraine is characterized by pulsating, moderate to severe pain in one side of the brain, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. It usually becomes worse during physical activity. People with migraine are extremely sensitive to light and sounds during the attack. If left untreated or treated improperly, one migraine attack may last from four to 72 hours.
According to statistics, nearly 30 million American people have at least one migraine attack per year. And approximately 75% of these people are women.
In some migraine sufferers typical migraine headache may be preceded by certain symptoms, although it’s not so common. These warning signs called aura become apparent in visual disturbances (flashes, zig zags and blurring), sensory problems (numbness and tingling in the legs or arms) and difficulty speaking. They progress gradually and last up to 60 minutes. Sometimes it may even look like a stroke. That’s why you’d better consult with medical professional, especially if experience these symptoms first time.
Medical experts aren’t sure, what is the main reason for migraine occurrence. It seems like combination of genetic and environmental factors results in painful sensations in your head.
One theory claims that specific changes developed in the brainstem may influence on its interactions with pain-delivering fibers located in the trigeminal nerve.
It was also found that during the migraine attack, levels of serotonin, which is known as a pain-regulating brain chemical, drop down. As a result, trigeminal nerve produces substances that flow to the brain’s covering (meninges) and irritate them.
There is wide variety of things that may trigger migraine. Some women suffer from attacks before periods, and others associate pain with taking birth control pills. Stress, strenuous physical activity and changes in weather may trigger migraine attack in those, who are predisposed to this health issue.
What and how you eat and drink also plays an important role. Thus, you may feel throbbing pain in your head after taking aged cheese or processed foods, skipping meals or drinking alcohol.
Unfortunately it may appear not so easy to ease migraine headache.
While for some of us avoiding triggers and following healthy lifestyle helps to prevent the attack, for others medications are the only way to get rid of migraine.
There are two major categories of medications, which can be used in those who suffer from migraine.
For acute cases, doctors recommend consuming pain relievers to stop the attack.
Over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen work efficiently, if the attack was recognized on the early stage.
Certain drugs (Excedrin Migraine) were specifically designed to treat this kind of pain. However these work effectively only for moderate cases.
It’s worth knowing that OTC medications may be not so safe as it seems. If used for a long time, non-prescription pain relievers may contribute to peptic ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Another group of medicines, used to calm migraine symptoms, is called triptans. Sumatriptan, rizatriptan, frovatriptan and others constrict blood vessels and prevent sending pain stimulus to the brain. But be aware that you shouldn’t use them, if you have high risks for stroke or heart attack.
In extremely severe cases healthcare professional may prescribe opioids to treat unbearable migraine pain.
For those, who have four or more serious, long-lasting migraine attacks per month, or don’t feel better after taking painkillers, or have prolonged aura, preventive treatment may be the best choice.
In this situation, beta blockers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and Botox injections can help you get rid of frequent debilitating attacks. All these medications have side effects, so your treatment should be thoroughly controlled by your doctor.
If you have migraine 15 days in a month or more, your disorder may be considered as chronic condition.
Those who have chronic migraine, often notice that their well-being has been relieved after using alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage, herbal supplements and biofeedback.