What is a Migraine?
The word migraine literally means “half of the head” and comes from the fact that migraine headaches occur predominantly on one side of the head. “Common” migraines may cause a headache on both sides of the head. This form of migraine may be difficult to diagnose and may be confused with stress, tension, or sinus headaches.
What causes a Migraine?
It is not exactly known what causes a migraine. It is believed that a neurotransmitter serotonin, which is an important chemical used by the brain, plays a role. Changes in serotonin cause blood vessels or vessel to contract, diminishing blood flow to a portion of the brain. If the blood flow is long enough and severe enough a stroke to the brain is possible. This is extremely rare. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected, there can be a wide variety of symptoms related to the reduced blood flow. This constriction can last a few minutes or up to one and one half hours. When the vessel begins to relax and dilate. It may expand beyond its usual diameter. Depending on the extent of the dilation, there may be no headache (only symptoms related to the diminished blood flow), mild headache, or the classic throbbing headache in the area of the affected blood vessel.
Trigger Mechanisms can Cause Migraines
Nitrates (often found in cured meats, hot dogs, etc.)
MSG (monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer in some foods)
Hormonal changes (especially the use of birth control, pregnancy, menstrual periods, or menopause)
Times of stress relief (beginning of holidays)
Family history (people often have a family history of migraines) Twenty percent of the population may suffer from migraines and are more common in women.
What are the Symptoms of Migraines?
Pounding or throbbing pain usually on one side of the head lasting for several hours or as long as several days.
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to sound
Sensitivity to movement
Nausea and vomiting
These begin with visual symptoms. The visual symptoms can be bilateral or unilateral. These visual symptoms may occur in a portion of the vision, half the vision, or all the vision.
Flashing zigzag or saw shaped lights or lines
Bubble like images
Areas of blurred vision or vision loss
Less Common Symptoms of Migraines
Change in pupil size
Very rarely the vision loss cab be permanent
Treatment of Migraines
Finding out if you have any trigger factors and avoiding those such as foods, smells of perfume, medication, and life style changes
Over the Counter Medications
Medications such as anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, and anti-inflammatory medications for migraines) are available
Vasoconstriction drugs such as ergotamines
Prescription drugs that directly deal with migraines Imitrex®, Amerge®, Maxalt®, and Zomig®
Prescription drugs taken daily to try to prevent the number of migraine attacks such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and a few anti-seizure medications