Healthy Living

What a Migraine Really Is: Know the Facts

What a Migraine Really Is: Know the Facts

What is a migraine?

A migraine refers to a type of headache, which commonly attacks one side of the head, although 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 and 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 a 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, while others may endure it longer.

Migraines usually start during adolescence or in the early 20s. In rare cases, migraines can start earlier. The condition is most common among adults between the ages of 35 and 45 years old. 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 that can severely affect normal functioning. Even simple things like climbing a flight of stairs can be challenging to an individual 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 Migraines

The two main types of migraine headaches are with or without aura:

1. Migraine with Aura or Classic Migraine

When you have a classic migraine, you will experience symptoms before the onset of a migraine. The symptoms may include:

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

2. Migraine Without Aura or Common Migraine

In this type of migraine, people do not experience an 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 intensified 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 a migraine:

  • Loud noises
  • Very bright lights
  • Strenuous activities
  • Stress
  • Resting after being stressed
  • Skipping meals
  • A change in the type of meals
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Menstruation 
  • Certain types of drinks
  • Trauma to 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 that you discuss the diary with your doctor to help treat your ailment better.

In some cases, certain medications can also trigger a migraine attack. Thus, it is imperative that you share every detail with your doctor.

Do children get migraines?

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

Migraines in Women

Women are more likely to experience migraines than men during adulthood. Research shows that a woman has three times the risk of suffering migraines compared to a man.

Diagnosing Migraines

The exact cause of migraines has not yet been determined. However, there are certain risk factors that have been identified that can trigger an attack. Each person’s migraine trigger is unique, 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 easily consider a migraine for other problems, especially when it is their first time experiencing a migraine. However, a migraine 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 doctor will decide if you need to undergo certain tests to determine if your migraine is caused by other health conditions. To identify and establish triggers, you may need to undergo allergy testing. 

Treatment

There are two major methods used in treating the condition:

  • Acute Treatment - Where a patient uses over-the-counter painkillers to relieve pain.
  • Home Remedies - They include ice packs and certain 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 in the effective management of migraines. It is important to remember that healthy dietary and lifestyle changes only aid in pain management and cannot permanently get rid of migraines.

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 an unpredictable condition, migraines can be hard to manage but not impossible to live with. Ensure that you take suitable steps to effectively manage it, be it medication or lifestyle changes.

Key Takeaways

  • 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. 
  • The severity of pain, frequency, and duration of migraine attacks differ from person-to-person.
  • Although migraines can be a lifelong and an unpredictable condition, they are not impossible to live with.