A migraine is a throbbing and pulsating pain in one side of the head. It lasts for few hours to few days and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and eyesight problems. A migraine is preceded by symptoms like flashes of light, tingling in arms or legs, buzzing in ears, etc. (aura)
Migraine may progress through 4 stages:
- Headache episode
1-2 days before migraine, either one or two of these symptoms may be experienced:
- No urge for passing stools or hard stools
- Desire for certain foods
- Continuous yawning
- Neck stiffness
Aura may occur before or during migraine attack. It includes symptoms like:
- Flashes of light
- Seeing of different shapes
- Vision loss
- Difficulty in speech (aphasia)
- Tingling or pin-pricking sensation in arms or legs.
Migraine attack usually lasts for 4-72 hrs.
The intensity and frequency of headaches may vary from person to person.
Symptoms may be as follows:
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
- Throbbing or pulsating nature of a headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- fainting sometimes
- Sensitivity to light, noise and sometimes smells and touch.
A stage after migraine attack where in the person feels drained out and weak.
Although the exact cause of migraine is not clearly known, one of the following may play a role in causing migraine:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
- Imbalances in brain chemicals like Serotonin which helps to regulate the pain
- Serotonin levels drop during migraine attack à certain nerve releases substances called neuropeptides à travels to brain’s outer covering (meninges) à gives rise to pain.
- Hormonal changes in women
- Before or during menstrual periods
- During pregnancy or menopause
- While taking oral contraceptive pills
- This occurs due to an imbalance in the levels of estrogen hormone.
- Food and drinks
- Old cheese
- Salty foods
- Processed foods
- Food additives like sweetener aspartame and preservative monosodium glutamate
- Alcohol especially wine
- Drinks containing high levels of caffeine
- Stress at work or home
- Sensory stimuli
- Bright light or excessive sun exposure
- Loud noises
- Unusually strong smells of paints, perfumes or smoke etc.
- Changes in sleep wake pattern
- Excessive sleeping or decreased sleep can lead to a migraine headache.
- Environmental and physical factors
- excessive physical work
- changes in weather
- Oral contraceptives
- Certain blood pressure medicines
A migraine can be diagnosed by following measures:
- Medical history of the patient
- Family history if any
- Signs and symptoms of the migraine attack
- Physical and neurological examination of the patient
- Certain investigations to rule out other serious conditions.
- To rule out blood vessel problems
- Infections of spinal cord or brain
CT Scan and MRI
- To rule out tumors, infections, brain damage, brain hemorrhages.
Spinal Tap or Lumbar Puncture
- This is done to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid if infection or brain hemorrhage is detected.
- Muscle relaxation and body calming exercises like yoga or meditation
- Enough and sound sleep. Avoid oversleeping.
- Rest and relax in a quiet and dark place when there is an episode of a headache. Apply an ice pack on painful areas of head and neck.
- Maintain a headache diary to know better about the triggers and frequencies of headaches.