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Know All About a Migraine: Characteristics, Symptoms, Risk and Its Treatment

Updated: 20 Jun 2024
Published: 20 Jun 2024

A migraine is not just a painful headache. It's a condition that can disturb or annoy you for days, with a severe, throbbing, one-sided headache. An attack of migraines typically lasts many days and occurs in stages. Severe cases can disrupt day-to-day activities, such as work or studies. It's a complex neurological disease that often presents as headaches. However, not everyone with migraines will experience headaches during an episode. It's crucial to remember that the best course of action for managing migraines is to consult a healthcare professional. 

In this blog, we will explain what migraine is. We will also cover topics like types of headaches, migraine symptoms and migraine treatments.

Types of Headaches

Many of us are familiar with some form of a headache's throbbing, uncomfortable and distracting pain. The common types include:

  • Tension headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Hemicrania continua
  • Ice pick headache
  • Thunderclap headache
  • Allergy or sinus headache
  • Hormone headache (also known as menstrual migraine)
  • Caffeine headache
  • Exertion headache
  • Hypertension headache
  • Rebound headache
  • Post-traumatic headache
  • Spinal headache

Migraine Symptoms and Stages

Four stages of migraine progression can occur in children and teenagers as well as adults: prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome. Not every migraine sufferer experiences each stage. Depending on the stage, migraine symptoms change. Every migraine is different, and you won’t necessarily experience symptoms during all four stages.

Stage 1. Prodrome

One or two days before a migraine, you might notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including:

  • Prodrome Symptoms
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Frequent urination

Stage 2. Aura

Some individuals may have an aura either before or during a migraine. Reversible neurological symptoms include auras. Though they might also involve other disturbances, they are typically visual. Every symptom normally starts out gently, intensifies over a few minutes and lasts up to an hour.

Aura Symptoms

  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision changes
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Sensitivity to touch (feeling like someone is touching you)
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Difficulty speaking or concentrating

Stage 3. Attack

An untreated migraine often lasts 4 to 72 hours. How often migraines occur varies from person to person.  A migraine attack may happen rarely or multiple times per month. 

Attack Symptoms

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Light, sound and odour sensitivity

Stage 4. Post-drome

It's possible to feel exhausted, confused and washed out for up to a day following a migraine attack. A few claim to feel elated. A sudden movement of the head could momentarily reactivate the pain.

  • Postdrome Symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Migraine Triggers

A trigger is something that causes symptoms to start. Some of the most common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medications
  • Changes to your sleep
  • Weather conditions change
  • Too much physical activity (overexertion)
  • Addictive substances like caffeine or tobacco
  • Missing a meal
  • Exposure to bright lights, loud noises or strong odours

Your healthcare provider can help you identify your triggers. They might recommend keeping a migraine journal to track similarities between migraine attacks.

Migraine Treatments

There is no cure for migraine. However, medications can help manage the symptoms when they arise, and people can take steps to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that these medications can have side effects.

Medications

Pain relief and other types of medication can often help. Taking medication as soon as symptoms start may keep them from becoming severe.

Some over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications that may benefit people with migraine include:

  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Other options include:

  • Triptans, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex), to help reverse the brain changes that occur during an episode.
  • Antiemetics, to manage any feeling of nausea and vomiting
  • Gepants, to block a protein involved in inflammation and pain called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)
  • Ditans, which interact with 5-HT1F receptors on the sensory nerves and blood vessels

It is important to avoid overusing medication because overuse can cause a rebound headache. A healthcare professional can help inform an individual how much of each medication is safe and effective.

Home and Natural Remedies for Migraine

Some home care strategies that can help relieve migraine symptoms include:

  • Using flexible cold packs or masks
  • Staying in a quiet, darkened room
  • Sleeping, when necessary

The following supplements might help prevent migraine. However, there is limited evidence that they work, and not much is known about their side effects:

  • Herbal extracts, such as feverfew
  • Magnesium
  • Coenzyme 10
  • Butterbur Root
  • Riboflavin

Other non-drug approaches may include neck exercises or physical therapy. Before trying any of these, speak with a healthcare professional. Research has not shown that these approaches work. Anyone looking for an alternative therapy, such as acupuncture, should go to a qualified and experienced professional.

Conclusion

Primary headaches and migraines don't cause death or lasting disability. But if they occur frequently and severely, they could be temporarily debilitating. When identified and treated, headaches and migraine are often manageable. The underlying cause determines the outlook for the next migraine episodes. While some may be fatal without immediate medical care, others can be controlled with minor adjustments to everyday activities.  If you frequently or severely suffer from migraines. Proper diagnosis is the first step to treating and understanding your migraine.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Are migraines hereditary?

    Answer:- Yes, if one or both of your parents suffer from migraines, you're more likely to experience them as well. However, the inheritance pattern can be complex, involving multiple genes and environmental factors.

  2. Can migraines be triggered by specific foods or drinks?

    Answer:- Yes, certain foods and drinks are known to trigger migraines in susceptible individuals. Common triggers include aged cheeses, processed meats, alcohol (especially red wine), caffeine, chocolate and foods containing MSG. However, triggers can vary from person to person.

  3. Is there a link between hormonal changes and migraines?

    Answer:- Yes, hormonal fluctuations, particularly in oestrogen levels, can trigger migraines in some individuals. Women often report migraines associated with their menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause. Hormonal medications like birth control pills can also influence migraine frequency and severity.

  4. How can one differentiate between a regular headache and a migraine?

    Answer:- Migraines are characterised by specific symptoms beyond just head pain. These may include aura (visual disturbances), sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting and intense throbbing pain usually on one side of the head.

  5. Are there any long-term effects or complications associated with frequent migraine episodes?

    Answer:- Some research suggests that frequent migraines may be associated with a higher risk of certain health conditions such as stroke, cardiovascular disease and depression.

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