Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are a type of headache generally causing severe pain on one side of the head. The pain is often on the front part of the head around the forehead, eyes, and temples. Nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light often accompany migraine. Migraines are thought to be caused by vascular changes in the blood vessels of the head. The pain is caused by the blood vessels dilating (or swelling) in the areas where the headache occurs. Chemicals, such as seretonin, may trigger the swelling. Many migraine sufferers have an aura (visual disturbances or changes in sensation) prior to having a migraine; however, migraine can occur with or without an aura.

How common are migraine headaches?

About twenty percent of people in the US will have a migraine at some point in their life. Two thirds of migraines sufferers are women.(source: www.intelihealth.com)

Migraine Symptoms

  • Severe pain on one side of the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Visual disturbances (generally prior to headache) such as zigzag lines in vision or blind spots
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Sensitivity to smells or tastes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • Dizziness

Migraine Triggers

  • Bright lights, loud noises, or high contrast colors on computer monitors or television
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Alcohol or caffeine
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Skipping meals
  • Changes in hormones (from menstrual cycle, birth control pills, or pregnancy)
  • Foods containing tyramine such as red wine and aged cheese
  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Other foods such as chocolate, onions, or certain dairy products
  • Changes in the weather

Sometimes migraines are triggered by certain foods or changes in environment. Keeping a headache diary will help identify what triggers your migraine. Record sleep, food, beverages, and any environmental triggers that might occur before or during migraine.

Migraine Prevention and Treatment

Some things you can do to prevent migraine is keep a headache diary to identify triggers. Try to eliminate any possible controllable triggers from your lifestyle. Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol. Exercise regularly and try relaxation techniques to control stress levels. Over the counter medications such as ibuprophen, aspirin, or Tylenol may help with migraines. If you have more severe migraines consult your doctor for prescription medication options including Midrin, Imitrex, or Maxalt. Other methods to relieve migraine include using cold compresses, laying in a dark room, or sleeping the headache off.

New Treatments for migraine

“In the January 2005 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a study found that patients can be injected with Botox to determine which muscles in their forehead or back of their head triggered their migraines. Once the muscles are pinpointed, they can be surgically removed.
The surgery eliminated migraines in 35 percent of the patients and reduced the frequency, intensity or duration of migraines in 92 percent.” (Source: http://www.4woman.gov/News/English/524158.htm)