Healthy Living

What a Migraine Really Is: Know the Facts

What a Migraine Really Is: Know the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Facts about migraine
  • Causes of migraine
  • Treatment for migraine 

What is a Migraine?

A migraine refers to a type of headache which commonly attacks one side of the head. The condition can also happen on both sides of the head. Migraine pain is always intense, throbbing, and severe. If you have a migraine, you are also likely to experience a headache that will cause pain behind the eyes or ears. It may also affect other parts of the head.

Migraines also cause hypersensitivity to light. It can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In some cases, people having migraines may have short-term loss of their vision or see flashing lights or spots. Migraines are also known to occur at any time. Occurrences of migraine can vary from mornings to later in the day. They can last for a varying duration as well. Some people experience the condition for a few hours, others 1 to 2 days.

Migraines usually start during adolescence or early 20s. In rare cases, migraines can start earlier. The condition is most common among adults between the ages of 35 and 45 years. However, the attacks have been known to get better with time in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration. Migraines are one of the most disabling illnesses and can severely affect normal functioning. Even simple things like climbing a flight of stairs can seem challenging with a migraine.

Most often brushed aside as just a headache, migraines remain undiagnosed and untreated. Lack of treatment and diagnosis only prolongs the extreme agony of the sufferer. It is important to consult a doctor in case you or someone you know shows symptoms of migraines. In extremely rare cases, migraines have been known to be life threatening.  

Types of Migraine

There are two kinds of migraine:

1. Classical Migraine (Migraine with aura). When you have a classical migraine, you will experience symptoms before the onset of the migraine. These symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the hands or face
  • Seeing blind spots or flashing lights
  • Troubled sense of taste and smell

2. Common Migraine (Migraine without aura). In this type of condition people do not experience any aura before an attack.

General Features of a Migraine

The general features of a migraine are the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • Throbbing headaches that are accelerated by physical activity
  • Headaches that come in intervals from 4 to 72 hours
  • Headaches that are mostly experienced on one side of the head
  • Tingling, weakness, or numbness of limbs
  • Sensitivity to noise and strong smells

What Causes Migraines?

There is no specific cause of migraines that can be identified. However, there are a number of things, called triggers, which are associated with migraines. It is difficult to identify specifically which trigger has caused the migraine:

  • Loud noises
  • Very bright lights
  • Very strenuous exercise
  • Stress
  • Resting after being stressed
  • If you miss some meals
  • Change in the type of meals
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Menstruation period
  • Certain types of drinks
  • Trauma in the head or neck
  • Certain types of food

It has been observed that physical activity may worsen a migraine attack. Even a slight jerk of the head could be a trigger.

It is often advised that a person suffering from migraines maintain a migraine diary so that triggers can be identified and avoided. The diary should record not just specifics on the attacks but also the environment leading up to it, from diet to sleep patterns. It is important that the diary includes even the smallest detail, as it could be significant. Ensure you discuss the diary with the doctor to help treat your ailment better. In some cases, migraine medication is also known to trigger an attack. Thus, it is imperative that you share every detail with your doctor.

Do Children Get Migraines?

Yes. A migraine can attack any person. However, migraines are not identified in children. According to scientific research, approximately 10% of kids get migraines. A child can get their first migraine at the age of 12 or sooner. During this age, boys suffer more from migraines than girls. As the kids proceed to adolescence, girls turn out to suffer migraines more than boys.

Migraines in Women

A migraine is known to attack more women than men in adulthood, although it is different when they are young. Research shows that a woman has three times the risk of suffering from migraines compared to a man.

Diagnosing Migraine

The exact cause of migraines has not yet been determined. However, there are certain risk factors that have been identified to trigger an attack. Each person’s migraine trigger is unique to the individual, and not every migraine sufferer may react in the same way to the trigger. Once you get it, the threat of a migraine is always lurking.

People can mistake a migraine for other problems especially when their first migraine is experienced. It can be identified by looking at the pattern of triggers. Migraine symptoms are known to go away after some time. In cases where symptoms persist, it is advisable to see a specialist at once. The most common way of identifying the condition is a blood test. However, there are other ways such as testing for allergies to establish triggers.

Treatment for Migraine

These are the major method’s used in treating the condition:

  • Acute treatment. Where a patient uses over-the–counter painkillers to relieve pain
  • Home remedies such as ice packs and exercises to relieve pain

The severity of pain, frequency, and duration of migraine attacks differ from person to person. Dietary changes, regular exercise, and sticking to a routine sleep schedule have been known to help better manage migraines. It is important to remember that healthy dietary and lifestyle changes only aid management and cannot get rid of migraines permanently.

The Bottom Line

A migraine is a condition that should not be mistaken for other health problems. Migraine attacks are also seen to reduce with age.

A lifelong and unpredictable condition, migraines may be hard to manage but not impossible to live with. Ensure you take suitable steps to manage it effectively, be it medication or lifestyle changes.