M.Igraine headaches are a common ailment of many. In fact, around 12% of the Western population is believed to have migraines. These headaches and recurring and can be debilitating. Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men, and most people with migraines have a family history of the condition.
What causes migraines?
The cause of migraine headaches is not fully understood, it is believed to be multifactorial, and reasons such as genetics and the environment play a role in its occurrence in individuals. The mainstream thought is that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that leads to a drop in the transmitter called serotonin.
This affects the perception of pain, but it also affects the nerves in the brain. This over-excitability of the nerve leads to increased pain transmission, which tends to be in the area innervated by the nerve, so it tends to affect one side of the head, at least in the initial stages.
What are the symptoms of migraines?
Migraines are more common in the morning; People often wake up with them. Some people experience migraines at predictable times, such as before menstruation or on the weekend after a stressful week at work. There are four different stages of migraines, although people don’t always have all of the stages when they have a migraine.
Early symptoms such as cravings and mood swings can occur up to 24 hours before a migraine headache! This is known as the prodrome. Just before the headache occurs, what is known as an aura can appear, which can cause nausea, visual disturbances such as blurred vision or flashing lights, and even extreme fatigue.
Then the headache occurs. This is usually a throbbing headache of moderate or severe severity that occurs on one side of the head, although it can be generalized. During headache, people complain of sensitivity to light or noise. The headache can last for hours or even days! After the headache subsides, postdrome effects such as exhaustion can occur.
How is migraine diagnosed?
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical and neurological exam. In most cases, the diagnosis is obvious, but an important part of diagnosing migraines is to rule out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms. Therefore, blood tests, an MRI or CT scan, or other tests may be requested depending on the merits of your case.
How is migraine treated?
There is no cure for migraines. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing additional attacks. A big part of treating migraines is avoiding them. This can be achieved in patients who have triggers to find out what they are and avoid them. Common triggers are:
• stress and anxiety
• Lack of sleep and overexertion or fatigue
• Bright or flashing lights, loud noises, and strong smells
• Certain medications, such as oral birth control pills
• Smoking tobacco and excessive alcohol
• Skipping meals
• Certain foods and food additives such as chocolate, cheese. some fruits and nuts, MSG, pickles, and processed meats.
If you get a headache, there are pain relievers that can be used to relieve the headache. Some are normal pain relievers like ibuprofen, others are pain relievers specifically used to treat migraines.
Medicines can also be used daily for people who experience debilitating or frequent headaches to avoid the headache in the first place. BOTOX can also be used to treat migraines. For most patients, one session over a period of 4-6 months results in a significant reduction in the number of headaches. This can change the lives of chronic migraineurs.
Certain natural treatments like vitamin B2 and coenzyme Q10 can help prevent migraines. If your magnesium levels are low, you can also try taking magnesium.
While there are herbs that are purported to help migraines, most aren’t scientifically proven and can interact with other medications. Therefore, always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
* Dr. Marsha Barnett practices as a general practitioner and as a medical and aesthetic dermatologist. It is located in the GRACE BAY MEDICAL CENTER in Providenciales and can be reached at: (649)941-5252 or by email at [email protected]