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Migraines: Symptoms, treatments, and causes

The symptoms of migraine are nausea and sensitivity to light .
Migraines are the result of a combination of increased cerebral blood vessel volume and the release of chemicals from the nerves surrounding these blood vessels.
During headache attacks, the temporal artery that is located on the outside of the skull under the skin of the temples expands non-dangerously for life.

This causes the release of chemicals that cause inflammation , pain and dilation of the artery.
We can not confuse migraine with tension headache that is caused by muscle tension.

There are several types of migraine

  • Migraine with aura, occurs when there is a warning sign, known as aura, before the onset of headache.
    About one third of people with migraine have these signs that may include: visual disturbances (such as flashes of light) stiff neck, shoulders or limbs.
    If the headache is preceded by strange visual phenomena we speak of ophthalmic migraine.
  • Migraine without aura.
  • Migraine-free headache, also known as silent migraine, occurs when there is an aura or other migraine symptoms, but does not develop a headache.

This headache affects more than 30 million people in the US, women suffer more often than men (about 75% of migraine patients are women.). Often, migraine is not treated and diagnosed, less than half of people with migraine receive the diagnosis by the doctor.

When Does Migraine Occur?

Everyone can feel the migraine in a different way.
Some people have frequent bouts up to 4-5 times a week, while others suffer from migraine rarely.
Between a migraine attack and another can take a few years.
Some people have noticed that migraine attacks are associated with certain factors (“triggers”), including certain foods and stress.

Causes of migraine

The exact causes of migraine are unknown, but are related to internal changes in the brain, in addition to genetic causes.
People who suffer from migraine may inherit the tendency to be influenced by certain migraine “triggers” such as fatigue , lights, climate change and others.
For many years, scientists thought that migraine was caused by the expansion and narrowing of blood vessels on the surface of the brain.
However, it is now believed that migraine is caused by hereditary abnormalities in certain areas of the brain.
There is a “pain center” or a migraine generator in the brain.
Migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send impulses into the blood vessels, causing vessel constriction (narrowing), followed by dilation (expansion) and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other inflammatory substances that cause pain.

What Causes a Migraine?

Many migraines seem to be triggered by external factors.
The possible factors that triggers are:

  • Emotional stress . This is one of the most frequent cause of headaches.
    People who suffer from migraine are greatly influenced by stressful situations such as physical or mental stress, for example, spending many hours concentrated on the computer.
    When these events occur, certain chemicals in the brain are released to combat a difficult situation.
    The release of these chemicals can cause vascular changes and therefore can cause a migraine.
    The mood that accompanies stress such as anxiety , worries, excitement and fatigue can increase muscle tension and dilation of blood vessels that can aggravate migraine.
  • Sensitivity to specific chemical agents or preservatives in food . Some foods and beverages, such as aged cheese, alcoholic beverages and food additives, such as nitrates (in peppers, sausages and meats), can account for about 30% of migraines.
    Caffeine . Excessive consumption of caffeine can cause headaches, it can also occur in case of withdrawal.
    Blood vessels appear to become hypersensitive to this substance, and when you do not drink coffee a migraine may occur.
    Caffeine may be helpful in treating acute attacks of migraine.
    Changing weather conditions. When a storm approaches, a change in barometric pressure, a strong wind or altitude changes can cause a migraine.
    Menstrual periods
    Excessive fatigue 
    Skipping meals 
    Changes in sleep patterns normal.

Migraine Risk Factors

Several factors can lead to the onset of a migraine.
Family history . Up to 90 percent of people with migraine have a family history of migraine. If one or both parents suffer from this type of headache, there is a good chance that the child will also suffer.

Age . Migraines can begin at any age, although most people feel that the first migraine occurs during adolescence. At age 40, most people have had the first attack.
Gender . Women are three times more likely to develop a headache.
Headaches tend to affect boys more than girls during childhood, but after puberty, girls are more affected.
Hormonal changes . Generally, a woman suffering from migraine, notes that the headache appears a little before or after the onset of menstruation. During pregnancy or menopause this type of migraine occurrence may change.
Some women report that migraine attacks are worse during the first trimester of pregnancy , although often the symptoms are minor during the last months of pregnancy.

Things you should know about migraines

Migraines are an invisible illness that cause many people around the world to suffer. This condition can affect one’s quality of life in a serious way. Some people are even unable to do anything for days when they have a migraine. A lot of theories exists about this illness and a lot of cures have been tested, some more effective than others but the truth is that this condition can only be controlled, not completely prevented. Even now, nobody has proven that they can cure migraines or eradicate them completely. Below are 5 things you should know about migraines, so that you can better identify and control them:

  • Migraines can disable the people that suffer from them: Due the intensity of the headaches, one can be rendered incapable to do any sort of activity. The pain is very intense and can be only in one half of the head or in the front or back. Very rarely does migraine pain effect the full head. If you repeatedly have an intense pain in only one part of your head, go and see a specialist because you may be suffering from migraines.
  • Triggers: Different things can trigger a migraine. It is well known that the triggers are physiological, so a perfume, bright lights, exhaust fumes, loud noises, food with high preservatives content or even a climate change can trigger a migraine. Once you detect that you are sensitive to any of the things mentioned, try to avoid them at all costs because you don’t want to suffer more attacks than necessary. This may seem off but one way to help ease migraine pain is via a daith piercing. Take a look at this guide on daith piercing for migraine, as it may help you learn about a relief that doesn’t require medicine.
  • Common illness: Migraines are more common than you would think. In the United States of America alone, 37 million people suffer from this neurological disorder. It is also way more common in women than in men. People under stress are more susceptible to this condition. Even when proven that stress is not a direct trigger, it can make people more sensitive to the triggers mentioned above.
  • Other symptoms: Migraines are not only about strong headaches. This illness can also produce other symptoms, such as vomiting, strong eyes pain, extreme fatigue, hypersensitivity to touch and in several cases it even can produce hemiplegia or one-sided paralysis. As you can see, migraines are not something that you can ignore and just take some pills, they need to be treated properly to avoid an increase in intensity.
  • There is no cure yet: This neurological disease is not well understood, yet. There are a lot of theories and treatments but no one has been able to explain or confirm what produces the migraine pains. What has been proven, is that a crisis can be as disabling as quadriplegia, so pay them the importance that they deserve and check in with a specialist if you think you may have migraine pains.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraine often appears in childhood, in adolescence or before the age of 30 years.
Migraine crises can progress in four phases: prodromal, with aura, attack and postdromica, even if you can not feel every phase.

1. Prodromic , one or two days before migraine, you may feel signs of headaches, including:

2. Aura , most people suffer from migraine without aura. The aura is usually visual, but can also be a sensory, motoro or verbal disorder.
Typically, each of these symptoms begin gradually and then continue for a period of 15 minutes to half an hour.
Below are some examples of symptoms in the Aura phase:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing spots or flashes of bright light
  • The loss of vision
  • Sensation of pins and needles down the arm or leg
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Rarely, an aura can cause weakness or aphasia.

3. Attacks when untreated migraine lasts from four hours to three days, but the frequency with which one feels the pain varies from person to person.
Migraine can occur several times a month, or more often.
During a migraine, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • The pain on one side of the head
  • Throbbing pain
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes perfumes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness , sometimes followed by fainting

4. Last stage occurs after a migraine attack, when you may experience drowsiness and fatigue , although some people report that they have a slight euphoric feeling.

Diagnosis of migraine

Generally, migraine is diagnosed when symptoms are present, as described above. Generally, migraine begins in childhood or youth.
Although migraine can start for the first time before age 50 it is easier to have other types of headaches.
Generally, there is a family history of migraine, this suggests a genetic predisposition.
Usually, clinical examination of individuals suffering from headache is normal.

Patients who present:

  • A first headache in life,
  • The worst headache of life,
  • A significant change in the characteristics of a headache,
  • A headache with symptoms of the nervous system, such as loss of vision or hearing,

require a more in-depth analysis to rule out other diseases other than migraine.
The tests your doctor may prescribe include: blood tests , CT scans, MRI scans and a lumbar puncture.

Diagnostic criteria for migraine were established by the International Headache Society. According to these criteria, the diagnosis of migraine is made when an individual had five or more episodes of headache that lasts between 4 hours and 3 days, with at least two of the following characteristics:

  • Unilateral,
  • Late night,
  • Moderate or severe that worsens with movement.

As well as any of the following symptoms: nausea or vomiting, phonophobia (reduced sound tolerance), or photophobia (reduced tolerance to light).