Migraines are a neurovascular disorder which causes recurring headaches with intensities ranging from moderate to severe. These headaches are considered a primary headache, which means there is no underlying illness that is causing the headache symptoms. It is said that this type of headache is hereditary to some degree and often runs in families. It occurs more frequently in women than men and can appear for the first time in children as young as 10 years old to adults of 45 years of age. In some cases, it may begin later in a person’s life. The pain experienced by people diagnosed with this condition can be described as a throbbing or pulsating pain which is felt on one side of the head. It can last for about 4-72 hours and may come with other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and noise, as well as bouts of nausea and vomiting. In some cases, patients go through a phase wherein they experience visual and neurological disturbances also known as an aura. This serves as a warning that a headache is coming. Although it is not life threatening, the headache episodes can be quite debilitating. If you suspect that you’re suffering from migraines, contact a headache specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Causes and Triggers of Migraines
Migraines occur when the blood vessels in the head are enlarged. This causes the nerve fibers surrounding the brain’s arteries to release certain chemicals that trigger an inflammation in the arteries, causing the headaches we feel. The cause of the initial enlargement of the blood vessels that sets the whole process in motion has not been determined yet; however certain factors can trigger the inflammation that causes the headaches.
Stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol, hormonal changes and imbalances, bright lights and loud sounds, and eating certain foods can contribute to the dilation of the arteries in the brain. Some food triggers have been identified to cause the headaches which include any food items with monosodium glutamate, nitrates, and artificial sweeteners. Chocolates, caffeine, and cheese are also known to be triggers. Being exposed to these triggers doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll experience a headache afterwards, and neither is avoiding these triggers a guarantee that you won’t experience them at all. Also, triggers are not the same for everyone. While some may experience headaches after eating cheese, other people with this condition may not.
The best time to take over-the-counter analgesics would be at the onset of the headache. Taking medication in the middle of an episode can still help relieve the pain, but may not work as well as taking it at the beginning. Prescription medication that targets not only the headaches, but the symptoms that occur alongside it may also be given, especially to those who experience severe and chronic pain. Preventive medication such as beta blockers, anticonvulsants or antidepressants may also be prescribed by doctors to help prevent the occurrence of these severe headaches.
Migraines are a common type of headache and are considered benign; however, this condition may prevent people from performing normal everyday activities, which is why it is important to see a doctor about getting the right treatment for this condition.
If you’re experiencing any type of headache pain, schedule an appointment with one of our headache doctors immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.