Overview of Migraine

Migraine headaches are an extremely common condition, affecting at least 1 in every 7 adults in the world, according to the World Health Organization. They’re about three times more common in women than in men.

They can first occur at any age, although most people with migraines have their first attack during adolescence.

Because of their severity, migraines can be debilitating. Especially if you have frequent migraines, you may miss time from work and be unable to fully participate in family and other social activities.

Symptoms

Migraines aren’t the same as regular headaches or tension headaches, which usually aren’t as severe. They can cause a throbbing pain that commonly starts on one side of your head, lasting for at least several hours and sometimes for days. A minority of people with migraines also experience aura before a headache begins. These are neurological disturbances such as dizziness, seeing bright lights or wavy lines, or having ringing in your ears. Some people find that their headaches get worse when they move, and they may also be extremely sensitive to light or sound.

Causes

The causes of migraines aren’t completely understood, but they may have a genetic component. If your parents have migraines, you are much more likely than average to also have them. They may be related to hormones, abnormal changes in substances produced by the brain, or how pain is processed in the brain.

Triggers

If you’re prone to migraines, certain circumstances may make you more likely to get one. Lack of sleep, too much sleep, skipping meals, and stress can also serve as triggers. In addition, some medications, such as oral contraceptives, can make you more prone to having migraines.

Diagnosis

A blood or imaging test can’t diagnose migraine, but these types of evaluations may be done to rule out other factors that could be causing your headaches. After talking to you about your particular symptoms and eliminating other explanations, your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis of migraines.

Treatment

Avoiding known triggers may help reduce the number of migraines you get. When a migraine starts, it can help to lie down in a dark, quiet room. You may also find some relief from applying heat or cold to your neck and the areas of your head that hurt. If you have migraines very frequently, you may take medication to help prevent them.

Often these are medications that were originally designed for a different purpose, such as treating depression, but they’re also effective in preventing migraines. You may also take over-the-counter or prescription medication to help alleviate the pain. If this isn’t successful, you may also need medication to treat nausea or other accompanying symptoms.

Often you and your doctor will have to experiment with different treatments before settling on a plan that provides the most relief.Living with migraines can be painful and debilitating, but receiving an accurate diagnosis, minimizing your triggers, and following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can help make them more manageable.