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Migraines: The Basics

  • All
  • Overview
  • Symptoms & Causes
  • Treatment
  • Types of Migraines
  • Headaches in General

What is a migraine headache?

A migraine headache is a type of headache that can occur along with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, or sensitivity to light and sound. In many people, a migraine is a throbbing pain felt on only one side of the head as opposed to other types of headaches which involve both sides or the whole head.

Are migraines bad?

Undoubtedly migraines are a condition that affects the quality of life of the sufferer. Fortunately with the appropriate treatment, this condition can be controlled. Those who suffer with migraines should see a healthcare provider to rule out any potentially more serious reasons for recurring headaches.

Can you have a migraine without a headache?

Yes. For example, a silent migraine is characterized by presenting the usual symptoms of the disease but with the total absence of pain.

What does a migraine aura look like?

An aura typically begins with flashes of light in the center of your field of vision, usually in the form of zigzag lines, which are moving and growing to the side. Many people describe it as similar to a strobe light flashing. The wide variety of manifestations of visual auras are classified into three groups:

  • Negative  − subtractions from visual field (blind spots, hemianopia)
  • Positive  − false visual images (flashes, fragmented vision, distortions)
  • Complex shapes − altered images, for example color (dyschromatopsia) or size of objects change

How long can a migraine last?

A migraine may last from a few hours to several days. The duration depends on many factors, such as physical, environmental, and psychological circumstances.

What causes a migraine headache?

There are many possible causes for migraines, but a common cause is allergies to certain foods such as cured meats and cheeses, wine, beer, MSG, or food additives such as colorings. Other causes include sensitivity to odors or perfume, emotional stress, clenching of the jaw, and hormonal fluctuations such as those that occur during menstruation or the onset of menopause. Some think that migraines are caused by blood vessel dilation in the head or changes in blood pressure. Others believe that migraines are nerve pain.

What causes ocular migraines?

Ocular migraines are migraines that affect vision, usually vision loss or blindness in one eye. These headaches are caused by abnormal activity of the brain, which is triggered by stress, food, or an unknown factor. The exact chain of events is unknown; however, it seems to involve various chemicals, hormones, and nerve pathways.

Can migraines cause numbness?

Yes. The symptoms of migraines are varied and not all people suffer every symptom, but numbness is one of the symptoms that people suffering migraine frequently report experiencing.

Why do migraines cause nausea?

We don’t really know. Nausea, even to the point of vomiting, is often a symptom of migraine, and certain people, such as women and people who are prone to motion sickness, get nausea with a migraine more often than others. The nausea varies from person to person, but it’s likely that if you get nausea with a migraine, that’s one of the symptoms that you will have each time you get a migraine.

What does a migraine feel like?

A migraine is a strong, deep, often throbbing headache that gets worse gradually, with a feeling of strong pressure that can last from a few hours to several days. Unlike a headache caused by stress, the pain is usually worse on one side of the head. Migraines are often accompanied by an aura or other visual disturbances (often described as flashing or pulsing lights) and may also cause nausea to the point of vomiting.

How can you relieve migraine pain?

Some of the methods used to relieve the pain of a migraine are to reduce the intensity of light, eliminate as much noise as possible, and rest quietly in a dark, quiet room. Some people need to “sleep off” a migraine. Some people find relief with cold compresses on the head or back of the neck, while others might prefer heat. Many medications can help migraine pain, but pain relief varies with each individual. Try to treat the symptoms of migraine immediately, as this can help make the headache less severe. Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated, particularly if a migraine causes vomiting. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin may help when the migraine is starting. Some people find that taking magnesium daily can help avoid a migraine or help with symptoms. Prescription medications are also available specifically for migraines.

What can you eat when you have a migraine?

There is no diet to ward off migraines, but there are foods that can help mitigate the symptoms, such as legumes, fish, strawberry, lettuce, nuts and seafood. Often people who are experiencing a migraine do not feel like eating because of the nausea. There is no need to eat if you don’t feel like it; however, some people find relief by eating something small and bland.

What is an intractable migraine?

An intractable migraine is a migraine that has lasted for more than 72 hours and cannot be relieved by any of the usual migraine therapies.

What is a vestibular migraine?

A vestibular migraine is a disorder that may or may not present with a headache but affects the ears, vision, and balance. The symptoms of this disorder are varied, although they usually include nausea, vomiting, vertigo, instability, and intolerance to changes in position or movement of the head.

What is a silent migraine?

Silent migraine is a migraine without headache. The patient develops all the usual symptoms, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, nausea with possible vomiting, fatigue, etc., but does not feel any signs of pain.

What is a hemiplegic migraine?

Hemiplegic means paralysis on one side of the body. A person with hemiplegic migraine will experience temporary weakness on one side of the body. This may involve the face, arm, or leg and be accompanied by numbness or tingling.

What happens to your brain when you have a headache?

A headache indicates that your brain is reacting to a stimulus by producing pain. It may be caused by blood vessels or nerve endings in the head, or it may be caused by a variety of other physiological factors.

Can eye strain cause headaches?

Yes. Like the rest of the body, the eyes can get tired with strain, overuse, or environmental factors such as bad air quality, manifesting as a headache.

What causes sharp pain in the head?

An acute headache with sharp, stabbing pain can be a symptom of something more serious, such as a neuralgic symptom or a prolonged exposure to elements harmful to your body. A sudden sharp pain in the head should not be ignored—see a medical provider.

How do headaches cause pain?

Although it appears to be pain in the brain, a headache is not really caused by pain originating there because your brain cannot feel pain. A headache originates from the nerves, blood vessels and muscles of the head and neck. The nerves of these sites send the pain signal and the headache occurs.

What causes sinus headaches?

Sinus congestion, often due to an infection or an allergy, is the main cause of sinus headaches. In most cases, sinus headaches are treatable with decongestants.

What causes cluster headaches?

Scientists have not yet discovered the cause of cluster headaches, although they seem to be connected to the sudden release of histamine, a chemical that the body secretes during an allergic response, or serotonin, a chemical produced by neurons.

What causes daily headaches?

According to studies, a constant headache (daily) can be a symptom of more serious health problems such as hypertension, brain tumor, brain infection, etc. However, it is more likely caused by lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal, and/or stress.

What is a headache?

Pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck is classified as a headache. The intensity of a headache depends on many different factors.

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