A migraine is a severe, painful headache that can be preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
The excruciating pain that migraine brings can last for hours or even days. Migraine is a common problem affecting 36 million Americans, about 12% of the population.
What are Migraine Headaches?
The exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown; it is thought to be due to abnormal brain activity causing a temporary alteration in the nerve signals, chemicals and blood flow in the brain.
Migraine headaches can be very debilitating affecting 1 in 4 households in India. They are more common in women than men, and 3% of people have chronic migraines where they experience symptoms for half the month for six months.
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What triggers Migraine Headaches?
Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include:
- Allergies and allergic reactions
- Bright lights, loud noises, flickering lights, smoky rooms, temperature changes, strong smells and certain odours or perfumes
- Physical or emotional stress, tension, anxiety, depression, excitement
- Physical triggers such as tiredness, jet lag, exercise
- Changes in sleep patterns or irregular sleep
- Smoking or exposure to smoke
- Skipping meals or fasting causing low blood sugar
- Hormonal triggers such as menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, menopause
- Tension headaches
- Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs and salami)
- Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products and fermented or pickled foods
- Medication such as sleeping tablets, the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy.
Symptoms of Migraines
Symptoms of a migraine can occur a while before a headache, immediately before a headache, during a headache and after a headache. Although not all migraines are the same, typical symptoms include:
- Moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head during an attack, but can occur on either side of the head
- The pain is usually a severe, throbbing, pulsing pain
- Increasing pain during physical activity
- Inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- Feeling sick and physically being sick
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound, relieved by lying quietly in a darkened room
- Some people experience other symptoms such as sweating, temperature changes, tummy ache and diarrhoea
Migraine headaches can be severe, debilitating, and uncomfortable. Many treatment options are available, so be patient finding the one or combination that’s best for you. Keep Track of your headaches and symptoms in order to identify migraine triggers. Knowing how to prevent migraines can often be the first step to managing them.
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