What Is A Migraine

Generally, a migraine is a neurological disorder that causes throbbing pain in the head. Normal headaches can be bearable, but a migraine is a bad headache, which is very intense and unbearable, and it leaves the individual bedridden for hours or even days. During a migraine attack, the individual may become highly sensitive to lights and sounds. It interferes with their day-to-day activities.  

Symptoms of migraine  

Migraine can happen to anyone regardless of age. The symptoms may vary depending on the stage and severity of migraine. Some common symptoms one may experience are given below:

  • A pounding or throbbing pain and pulsating sensation on one side of the head.
  • Developing high sensitivity to physical activity, sounds, lights, and odors.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness and blurred vision.
  • Loss of appetite or food cravings.

The pain can shift from one side to another. It can be felt on the forehead and also on the back side of the head. Sometimes, it can also cause pain around the eyes, temples, neck, jaw, and sinuses. It can start from one side and spread to other sides and the whole head in some cases.

Stages of migraine   

Migraines mostly happen in stages and can have mild to severe effects. It can progress in four different stages, which are as follows:

·         Prodrome – Before a migraine occurs, it can be indicated through some symptoms. One might experience some minor changes that can be a warning sign of an impending migraine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include – Sudden mood changes, food cravings or loss of appetite, frequent urination, continual yawning, fluid retention, Stiffness in the neck, and constipation.   

·         Aura – This symptom may gradually occur during or just before a migraine. It might take a few minutes to occur and remain for up to an hour. They occur due to the response of the nervous system. Aura is linked to vision, wherein the individual may see various shapes, bright spots, wavy lines, or flashes of lights.

Apart from visuals, one may also experience several other problems like vision loss, speaking difficulties, pins, and needles pricking like sensations in arms and legs, numbness in the face, and weakness in the body. 

·         Attack – The migraine attack might occur several times a month. How frequently they occur differs from person to person. It can last for around 4 to 72 hours. The symptoms associated with this stage are – pain on one or both sides of the head, a throbbing or drilling pain in the head, the feeling of nausea and an urge to vomit, and enhanced sensitivity to sounds, lights, smells, and sometimes touch.   

·         Post-drome – This stage occurs after a migraine attack. It is a migraine hangover that usually lasts for a day or two. During this stage, one might feel completely drained, lack of energy, and enter a state of confusion.  

Causes of migraine

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the exact cause of migraine has not been identified or fully understood yet. When you experience a normal headache, the nerve cells of the blood vessels signal it to the brain, which triggers the inflammatory response. The flow of blood to the brain also changes.

During a migraine, the nerve cells of the blood vessels become overactive, which increases the sensitivity to sounds, lights, and smells. This can make the brain release several hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to pain and inflammation.

Risk factors of migraine

The exact reason for migraine is not known yet. However, compared to others, some people are more prone to developing this neurological disorder. The factors that potentiate the risk of migraines are given below:

·         Family history – Genetics plays a pivotal part in the case of migraine. Individuals with close relatives or first-degree relatives are more likely to experience this disorder.

·         Stress and anxiety – Anxiety is the manifestation of prolonged stress, which can trigger migraines.

·         Gender – Hormonal imbalances can cause migraines. Women experience fluctuations in their hormones until they reach menopause. During this time, they are highly likely to experience migraines compared to men. Thus, women are more likely to experience migraines, when compared to men. 

·         Chronic smoking – When you smoke, a substance known as nicotine enters your system. This component can stimulate your pain-sensitive nerves, which contributes to headaches. Hence, chronic smoking can lead to migraine. 

·         Pain relievers – Regular use of pain relief medications for managing headaches can help you to get rid of the pain, but doing so can contribute to migraines.

·         Flashing lights – Extreme brightness emitted by fluorescent lights, television screens, computers, etc. can trigger migraines.  

When is the right time to see the doctor?

If you are experiencing sudden pain and throbbing sensations in your head along with several other symptoms, then see how frequently they occur. Do they happen more than once a month? Is the pain worsening and becoming more persistent? If the answer is yes, then you must see your primary healthcare provider first.

You must discuss all your symptoms with them. They may prescribe some treatment. But if your condition requires a specialist’s attention, then they will suggest you see a head specialist, who has expertise in neurological disorders. They might suggest you get some diagnostic tests such as blood tests and screening tests like CT scans and MRI scans. These tests will be helpful in confirming if the person is experiencing migraines or showing symptoms of some other neurological disorders.

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