A migraine headache is a different form of headache usually throbbing or pulsating type and often associated with nausea; vomiting; sensitivity to light, sound, and smells; sleep disruption; and depression. Most of the episodes of headache occur in one side of head and attacks are often recurrent.
What are the types of migraine?
Migraines are classified according to the symptoms they produce. The two most common types are migraine with aura (warning sensation before episode) and migraine without aura. Less common types include the following:
* Abdominal migraine (abdominal symptoms in children),
* Basilar artery migraine (Headache affecting back side of brain),
* Headache-free migraine (aura without headache),
* Ocular migraine (Headache affecting the eyes),
* Status migrainosus (intense headache lasting over 72 hours),
* Menstrual migraines (headaches just prior to or during menstruation).
Cause and incidence of migraine
The cause of migraine is unknown. The condition may result from a series of reactions in the central nervous system caused by changes in the body or in the environment.
There is often a family history of the disorder, suggesting that migraine sufferers may inherit sensitivity to triggers that produce inflammation in the blood vessels and nerves around the brain and scalp, causing pain.
Migraines may occur at any age, but usually begin between the ages of 10 and 40 and diminish after age 50. Some people experience several migraines a month, while others have only a few migraines throughout their lifetime.
Approximately 75 percent of migraine sufferers are female.
Commonly identified migraine triggers that initiate a process or reaction include the following:
1) Environmental factors (e.g., weather, altitude, time zone changes)
2) Foods that contain caffeine (e.g., coffee, chocolate), monosodium glutamate (MSG; found in Chinese food), and nitrates (e.g., processed foods, hot dogs)
3) Glare, contrasting patterns
4) Hormonal changes in women
7) Lack of sleep
8) Medications (over-the-counter and prescription)
11) Alcohol (e.g., red wine)
Signs and symptoms
A migraine headache is throbbing or pulsating pain typically begins in a specific area on one side of the head, then spreads and builds in intensity over 1 to 2 hours and then gradually subsides. It can last up to 24 hours and in some cases for several days. The attack is debilitating, and migraine sufferers are often left feeling tired and weak once the headache has passed.
Preventing migraine attacks?
Avoiding triggers, managing stress and taking prophylactic medications can help prevent migraine headaches. Keeping a Headache Calendar can help identify triggers and gauge the effectiveness of preventive measures. Techniques (e.g., biofeedback, hypnosis) and stress-reducing activities (e.g., meditation, yoga, and exercise) may help prevent migraine.
Preventative medication may be prescribed for patients who have frequent headaches (3 or more a month) that do not respond to abortive treatment. Studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of these patients may benefit from preventative treatment. Using one medication is tried first, but a combination of medicines may be necessary.
Neurologists chooses the specific prophylactic medication, single or multiple, according to patient’s condition, age, tolerability, side-effects etc.
How is migraine treated?
Mild, infrequent migraines may be relieved using over-the-counter medication. Severe headaches with accompanying symptoms may require prescribed medication.
During a migraine headache, people often prefer to rest or sleep alone in a dark, quiet room, applying cold packs to the head or pressing on the bulging artery in front of the ear on the painful side of the head may provide temporary pain relief.
This article is compiled by Dr Alim Akhtar Bhuiyan, a US Board Certified Neurologist working as a Consultant and Coordinator in the Department of Neurology, Apollo Hospitals Dhaka.
Source: The Daily Star, July 04, 2009