A chronic neurological disorder leading to severe headaches, nausea, visual disorders and affecting your motor senses is called a migraine. Typically migraine headaches affect one part of the head and are characterized by intermittent, pulsating sensations of pain that can last between a few hours to four days. The blood vessels in the brain dilate during a migraine and press against the nerve endings that coil around the arteries. The pressure causes the nerves to release chemicals that cause inflammation and intense pain.
Migraines are common among children. Childhood periodic syndromes are accompanied by intense vomiting, vertigo, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Migraines can also affect the eye and disturb vision. This condition is known as retinal migraine when the migraine headaches are accompanied by zigzag lines, flash lights and partial or complete loss of sight.
Certain migraines come with a warning when people suffering from the condition feel an aura or signal before the onset of the pain. An aura is a signal the body sends out before the migraine pain starts. During this period (usually within an hour of the migraine attack) the body goes through certain discomforts or signals. Patients may become over sensitive to particular smells and bright light; feel disoriented, find it difficult to walk and keep balance or get a paralytic attack.
In chronic cases, the headaches can affect both sides of the head. Migraines occur for very long stretches of time (2 to 72 hours); recur regularly, around fifteen days in a month and leaves the patients terminally feeling ill. Chronic migraine patients also suffer from a second category of migraine called probable migraine that is caused by migraine and other related drug overdoses. Oral drugs do not get absorbed properly in the blood stream during the migraine attack and the pain suppressant drugs have side effects that cause headaches. The headaches are throbbing, but not severe enough to be graded as a migraine.
Symptoms of Migraine
- The most common symptoms of migraine are vomiting, nausea and increased sensitivity to light (photophobia), sound (phonophobia) and motor disturbances, where you feel disoriented and have difficulty moving and walking.
Around twenty five percent of migraine sufferers get a migraine aura within an hour of getting a migraine. The symptoms of an aura are visual discomforts where you may see zig zag lines or flashing lights or just lose sight in one or both eyes. You experience a sensation of needles and pins in the neck, shoulders and hands. Mood swings, irritability and becoming withdrawn are also aura symptoms. Feeling disoriented, loss of coordination and difficulty in speaking are the other indications.
Migraine pains can be unilateral (on one side of the brain) or bilateral (affecting both sides of the brain). The pain usually worsens with physical activity, which is why some people find it difficult to move. Some people may also witness a temporary neurological deficit leading to fainting, weakness on one side of the body, double vision or paralysis.
Migraines are usually accompanied by profuse sweating, poor concentration, acute physical uneasiness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and increased urination. Migraine headaches are throbbing, pulsating and very severe, and can last between a few hours to three days. The pain is sometimes accompanied by rebound and muscle tension headaches. The migraine pains are severe and leave you drained and exhausted by the end of the bout.
Migraine symptoms in children vary, and usually include a tummy, also known as an abdominal migraine. The child may also suffer from nausea, vomiting, pass urine frequently, feel thirsty and sweat a lot. You must consult a doctor if your child complains of regular tummy aches since it can be a case of an abdominal migraine in children.
Causes of Migraine
The causes of migraines are not clearly understood, but researchers and health care experts do agree that there are certain conditions that are likely to contribute to the development of migraine and there are also some specific triggers for actual migraine episodes.
A migraine is caused by the enlargement of blood vessels in the brain. When the arteries dilate, the nerves that coil around the large arteries in the brain get pressed and releases chemicals. These chemicals lead to inflammation, throbbing and further swelling of the artery. The dilating arteries increase the pain.
Migraine effects the neurological functioning by activating the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system in the body. This leads to disorders in the nervous system that controls primitive responses to stress and pain. Symptoms associated with migraine, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are caused by this disorder.
Treating migraines with medication becomes ineffective due to the impaired absorption of oral medications. The blood flow and blood circulation is slowed down when the stomach malfunctions and the absorption reduces, leading to paleness in the skin and the hands and feet turning cold and numb.
The sympathetic activity creates irregularities in the stomach, delaying the emptying of the stomach to the small intestine. The small intestine starts the absorption process which gets deferred during a migraine. This stops the oral medicines from getting absorbed in the small intestine, making them ineffective even during the worst sessions of a migraine attack.
Remedies for Migraine
A migraine is a neurological disorder that needs medical treatment. Better awareness and understanding of triggers for migraines can help you take preventive measures to reduce the severity and frequency of the problem. Home remedies for migraines can also be helpful to provide some relief, when dealing with mild migraines, or to address other conditions and situations that could trigger migraines.
Ice wraps used around the neck and head will soothe the body, improve the blood flow and provide relief by easing the pain almost instantly.
You can use an ice towel; wet the towel and wring it out. Place it in the freezer for about five to ten minutes. Take it out, refold it and put it back into the freezer so that all the sides get chilled. You can take out the towel when it is really cold and wrap it around your head or neck till the pain subsides.
Deep massages in the head and neck area in a dark, cool room usually brings relief.
Apart from the natural remedies, people suffering from migraines can also look at preventive or prophylactic treatments. These treatments can be through drugs and nutritional supplements, lifestyle changes such as regular exercises and avoiding migraine triggers.
Stress and coffee are set to trigger off migraine in some people, so you must try and keep away from both of them. Preventive treatments aim at reducing the frequency and intensity of migraines. The treatments also look at avoiding medicine overuse headaches, known as rebound migraine. Medications during migraine have side effects so preventive medication should be reserved only for severe and frequent sufferers of the condition.
Tricyclic antidepressants are considered effective prophylactic treatments, but patients are said to suffer from side effects like insomnia, sexual dysfunction and sedation. It has been found that a low dose of aspirin benefits migraine patients.
In serious conditions, doctors prescribe a migraine surgery. The key to the success of the surgery is correct diagnosis of individual cases. Surgical cauterization of the terminal branches of the external carotid artery is carried out only if the doctor is absolutely confident that these vessels are the source of pain. Surgery provides permanent cures of the headaches and allied conditions like nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, over sensitivity to light, etc.
Diet for Migraine
The most effective migraine home remedies start with a change in your lifestyle and dietary habits. Exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep at night and eating healthily helps reduce chances of headaches and migraines. Here are some diet tips that you should keep in mind.
Include an assortment of natural foods made of nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats. You could include the following foods in your diet: ginger, peppermint, cayenne ginger, fish and fish oil, foods rich in magnesium and calcium like oatmeal, wheat, garlic, spinach, kale and broccoli.
You should eat foods rich in vitamins and essential fatty oils to improve your health, make you stronger and boost immunity systems. This will help in dealing with the fatigue during migraine and help you bounce back faster. Drinking lots of water, juices packed with vitamin C and sometimes a salt- based snack also aids in keeping off headaches.
There are certain foods that are said to trigger off headaches and should be consumed in moderation or avoided completely. Alcohol, especially red wine, non-fresh meats like cold cuts and liver, soy beans and caffeine are said to trigger migraine pain.
Fasting or skipping meals results in a drop in the blood sugar levels which can trigger migraine symptoms in some people. You should eat at regular intervals.
Suggestions for Migraine
You should try to maintain a migraine diary with notes on the duration, aura conditions, migraine trigger factors, medications used, and so on. This will make it easier to assess the type of migraine you have, if it is a migraine or anything else like a tension-type headache. You will be able to find out if there is any relation between a migraine and menstruation and make it easier to diagnose and treat your migraine condition.
- Frederick R. Taylor, Lifestyle changes, dietary restrictions, and nutraceuticals in migraine prevention, Techniques in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 28-37, ISSN 1084-208X, 10.1053/j.trap.2009.03.008.
Migraine Treatments - more information
Migraine - Frequently asked questions
20 Migraine remedies suggested by our users
A typical Migraine
suggested by jeannine on Saturday, May 24, 2008
suggested by Karin on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
suggested by Segun on Saturday, February 16, 2008
suggested by Segun on Saturday, February 16, 2008
Migraine Treatments. More...