Migraines affect approximately 12% of the population, differing from headaches in severity, tension, and duration. They are characterized by moderate to severe throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head. Symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days. Migraines can increase in severity over time naturally or due to certain injuries such as Whiplash.
Types of Migraines
25% of people experience Complicated Migraines, which are marked by what is known as an Aura. Auras are symptoms forewarning a migraine.
Auras can include:
- Tingling or Numbness in Face or Hands
- Unusual Sense of Smell, Taste, or Touch
- Visual Disturbances Such as Flashing Lights or Lines
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Difficulty Speaking
- Hearing Noises
- Uncontrollable Jerking of Limbs
The following four stages make up the development of a migraine: Premonitory (also known as prodrome or pre-headache), Aura, Headache, and Postdrome.
The Premonitory Phase may occur hours or days before a migraine, manifesting symptoms such as food cravings, constipation or diarrhea, mood changes, muscle stiffness, especially in the neck, increased fatigue, and increased frequency of urination.
The Headache Phase Includes:
- Pain Behind One Eye or Ear
- Pain in the Temples
- Seeing Spots or Flashing Lights
- Sensitivity to Light or Sound
- Temporary Vision Loss
The Postdrome Phase can make an individual feel sluggish and lethargic. Some of the symptoms of this phase include lower mood levels, fatigue, poor concentration and comprehension, and lower intellect levels.
70% of people experience Common Migraines. This type of migraine lacks the Aura that is definitive of Complicated Migraines. The Headache Phase symptoms describe characteristic features of the Common Migraine.
Symptoms include dizzy spells, visual disturbances, and nausea without head pain.
Hemiplegic Migraines may not include severe head pain, but sensation loss and weakness may occur and last for a few hours or several days. If you have not experienced weakness with your migraines in the past and start feeling weak on one side of your body, do not assume it is a migraine, seek immediate medical assistance.
Retinal Migraines include vision loss in one eye which can last up to 60 minutes. This condition is usually reversible but may be a sign of a more serious issue. If you are experiencing Retinal Migraines, it is recommended that you seek the expertise and care of a physician.
An Intractable Migraine lasts more than 3 days. Intense throbbing, nausea and vomiting, Aura, and fluctuations between wake and sleep patterns, are all symptoms associated with Intractable Migraines.
Triggers for this migraine include stress, caffeine, disturbed sleep patterns, lighting, and hormones. Symptoms can last from 5 minutes to 7 hours. Vestibular refers specifically to your inner ear which affects your hearing and balance. This can result in feelings of unsteadiness, sensitivity to sound, and extreme motion sensitivity. Preventing exposure to triggers is key for pain relief.
Basilar Migraines are often accompanied by severe pain and visual disturbances in one eye lasting up to 60 minutes. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of muscle control and slurred speech. They also have Aura symptoms, originating from the base of the brain or the Cerebral Hemispheres. You may have trouble producing words even though you know what you want to say, or trouble understanding what people are saying.
Genetics: Migraines have been identified as a hereditary condition. When one parent has this condition, the child has a 50% probability of having the same condition. If both parents suffer from this ailment the likelihood increases to 75%.
Gender: Women are 3 times more likely to have migraines than men. For women, their menstrual cycles can affect the frequency and duration of this condition. Birth control pills and hormonal replacement therapy has been shown to decrease the frequency and severity of migraines in some women.
Emotional Stress: Anxiety, worry, and fear trigger your fight or flight response releasing chemicals in your brain that stimulate migraine tension and pain.
Nutrition: Salty foods, processed foods, blue cheese, aged cheese, the artificial sweetener aspartame, alcohol, caffeine and monosodium glutamate (found in grapes, tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms), as well as spikes in blood sugar, can trigger migraines.
Changes in Sleep Patterns: Getting too much or too little sleep can bring on a migraine.
Changes in the Weather and Air Pressure: Very cold or windy weather along with changes in air pressure can affect brain chemicals such as serotonin and trigger a migraine.
Medication Overuse: Taking over the counter medications in excess can cause a Rebound Headache.
When to See a Doctor:
- You Have 3 or More Migraines per Week
- They Worsen and Don’t go Away
- You Notice an Increased use of Pain Relievers
- They Interfere With Your Work, Social or Family Life
Keep a journal tracking the duration and severity of your pain, sleeping habits, weather patterns, and your nutrition. By keeping this journal, you will be able to identify your triggers and avoid them.
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