A migraine is a neurological condition. Migraines can present differently with varying symptoms.
The causes, symptoms, and triggers may change. But one consistency is the high degree of pain the sufferer experiences.
Migraine pain can appear on either side of the head and is more intense than a typical headache. Symptoms can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.
Knowing what can trigger symptoms is essential for those suffering from migraines. When possible, the best way to treat a migraine is to prevent it.
Effectively responding to migraine symptoms can improve the quality of life. Patients should be aware of the best treatments and medications for their condition.
Migraines can appear at any place or time. Often, movement can worsen the pain and cause further discomfort.
Migraines can be debilitating. Many people find that their life revolves around this condition. This can lead to emotional distress, thanks to the disappointment of canceled plans.
Thinking preventatively, people can plan in case a migraine comes on. This can include having a darkened room or using eye covers to block light. They can also have medication or ear plugs on hand at all times.
While migraine causes are largely unknown, there are some general consistencies.
Some studies have shown that a change in the brain’s activity can trigger symptoms. There also seems to be the possibility of a genetic connection. Migraines can be linked from one generation to the next.
Events that can trigger migraines include:
- Serious illness
- Job loss
- Death in the family
- Depression or anxiety
- Change impacting home or work life
Noting impacting triggers can help individual migraine sufferers adjust to a healthier lifestyle.
Types of Migraine Triggers:
Some of the more common triggers for migraines are:
- Fatigue or sleep patterns
- Weather changes
- Hormone changes (i.e., menstruation or pregnancy)
- Hormonal therapy, birth control, etc.
- Changes in food, drinks, or not eating/drinking at all
- Caffeine intake
- Loud noises or strong smells
- Physical activities
- Mood changes
Increased Migraine Frequency
A few specific categories of people may experience migraines more frequently than others. They are:
- Women aged 10 to 40
- People with a family history of migraines
- Predisposing medical conditions (like bipolar disorder and epilepsy)
Typical migraine symptoms are known to affect different parts of the body.
For example, a migraine with an aura can impact vision 5 to 10 minutes before the actual migraine starts. This aura can last for an hour and act as a warning for what is to come.
Other symptoms include:
- Vision is affected by black dots, wavy lines, flashes of light, or things that aren’t there (like hallucinations)
- Zigzag lines floating in the vision field
- Tunnel vision
- Complete vision loss
- Body numbness or tingling, usually on one side
- Slurred or limited speech
- Weighted feeling in arms and legs
- Ear ringing
- Changes in other senses (like smell, taste, and touch)
Migraine sufferers often describe the pain as dull, throbbing, and having increasing intensity. It usually starts on one side of the head, spreading until it affects the entire head.
Some people get nauseous and may even vomit. Others can feel faint, dizzy, or clammy. There is also the chance for a mild increase in the risk for stroke in aura migraine sufferers.
Migraines are diagnosed through medical testing and physical examinations, such as:
- Eye exams
- Computed Tomography (CT) head scans
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Treatments revolve around medical prescriptions, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
- Acute treatment (over-the-counter painkillers)
- Preventative treatment (beta-blockers, antidepressants, or anti-epilepsy drugs)
- Prescriptions for migraine pain
- Lifestyle changes
- Sticking to a routine
- Waking up and going to bed at the same time
- Consistent diet
- Staying hydrated
- Positive mindset
- Lowering stress
There are many types of medications for migraines. These medicines range from homeopathic to over-the-counter to prescriptions.
Many homeopathic treatments include untested methods that medical professionals should approve. Consult a doctor before attempting to self-treat.
- Aspirin or ibuprofen for short-term usage (long-term use can lead to ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding)
- Over-the-counter medications made explicitly for migraines (combining caffeine, acetaminophen, and aspirin)
- Triptans (like Almotriptan, Imitrex, and Maxalt) – used to block the brain pathway, administered in different forms such as pills, shots, and nasal sprays
- Dihydroergotamine – injection or nasal spray, lasts 24 hours and may have side effects like vomiting and nausea. (Note: not recommended for people with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or kidney or liver disease)
- CGRP antagonists and Ubrogepant (Ubrelvy) – are most effective in relieving pain and nausea, light sensitivity, and sound within two hours of onset.
- Opioid medications (like Vicodin) are prescribed for those that cannot take other migraine medications. However, they are highly addictive and are only used when nothing else is effective.
- American Migraine Foundation. 10 Ways to Respond to “Migraine is Just a Headache”. June 9, 2022. Available at: americanmigrainefoundation.org.
- Medical News Today. Migraine: Causes and Triggers. August 5, 2021. Available at: medicalnewstoday.com.
- American Migraine Foundation. 9 Surprising Symptoms of a Migraine Attack. January 20, 2022. Available at: americanmigrainefoundation.org.
- The Migraine Trust. Migraine with Aura. 2022. Available at Migrainetrust.org.
- Mayo Clinic. Migraine. July 2021. Available at Mayoclinic.org.
- Medical News Today. Migraine: Treatment. August 5, 2021. Available at: medicalnewstoday.com.
- Drugs.com. Aspirin. August 2, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.
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- Drugs.com. Vicodin. March 2, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.