Migraine headache is characterized by a severe headache usually affecting one side of the head. There are other symptoms along with headache like nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound. Some patients experience neurological phenomena like changes in vision, temporary loss of sensation and altered sensation, a phenomenon known as an aura (flashes of light, zigzag patterns, bright spots, tingling in the arms and the legs). Migraine headache can last for 2 to 3 days.
Symptoms: The symptoms depend on the stage of a migraine attack. The stages of a migraine attack can be:
- Prodrome, Aura, Headache or attack, and Postdrome.
- Prodorme: One to two days prior to the migraine attack, patient may experience;
- Mood swings.
- Cravings for food.
- Increased yawning.
- Stiff neck.
- Constipation and frequent thirst and urination.
In case of an aura (during or before a migraine), there may be visual, motor, speech, and sensory illusions and disturbances such as,
- Loss of vision.
- A strange sensation of needles pricking an arm or a leg.
- One side of the body becomes weak and numb.
- There are visual illusions such as the appearance of flashes of light, zigzag patterns, bright spots.
- There is a problem in hearing and speaking.
- In some cases, there may be a hemiplegic migraine (the limb becomes weak).
During a Migraine Attack (lasts for 4 to 72 hours), there may be
- A throbbing pain on either one or both sides of the head
- Blurred vision, light-headedness.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Sensitivity to touch and smell (though rare)
In Postdrome (after a migraine), there can be
- Mood swings.
- A person may be sensitive to light and sound.
- Dizziness and weakness
- Extreme fatigue
An amalgamation of environmental and genetic factors may be responsible for a migraine. Trigger varies for each patient:
- Stress and extreme physical exertion
- Alcohol and caffeinated drinks and beverages
- Salty and processed foods
- Altered sleeping habits
- Hormonal alterations in women (Constant fluctuation in the level of oestrogen)
- Oral contraceptives and certain vasodilators (nitroglycerin)
- Preservatives like MSG (monosodium glutamate) and Aspartame (sweetener)
- Sunshine, certain odours, travel, etc can trigger migraine.
Treatment and Prevention:
- Medicines under supervision to abort an attack of migraine and special drugs to stop attacks.
- Lifestyle changes are helpful to decrease attacks:
- Avoid your trigger for migraine.
- Follow regular sleep -wake cycle.
- Regular exercise, meditation.
- Avoidance of alcohol, caffeine containing beverages.
- Other treatment options that can be availed from pain specialist:
- Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation
- Intramuscular stimulation.
- Botulinum toxin injection.
- Occipital nerve block.
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