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Last Updated: July 04, 2019
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Migraine - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

What is Migraine?

Migraine is described as a continuous throbbing headache which affects only one side of the head. Usually accompanied by a disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and nausea. It can cause extreme throbbing pain which can last from hours to days. The pain is usually extremely disabling. Warning signs include tingling sensation on your face, leg or arm, blind spots and flashes of light. Taking certain medications can make it less painful. It usually begins in early adulthood, adolescence or childhood.

What are the stages of migraine?

  • Prodrome- Two or three days before you get a migraine, you can get warned by subtle changes such as constipation, intense mood swings, food cravings, neck stiffness, frequent urination, increase in thirst and frequent yawning.
  • Aura- This usually occurs during or before a migraine. They usually have signs such as zigzag vision, wavy or light vision and flashes of light. Sometimes, the aura can also be characterized by speech disturbances. These symptoms can last for 20 to 60 minutes at a stretch.
  • Attack- In this stage the migraine usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours if it isn’t treated. The frequency of the occurrence of the headache can vary from person to person. In this stage, you might experience pain on both or just one side of your head, pulsing pain, sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting and fainting.
  • Postdrome- This is known as the final stage of a migraine. Many people feel washed out and drained. People can also experience confusion, moodiness, dizziness, weakness and sensitivity to light and sound.

What are the symptoms of migraine headaches?

There are a few signs and symptoms in accordance with migraines.

  • Pulsatile headaches or throbbing, with moderate pain that intensifies and becomes severe with either movement or physical activity.
  • Localized or unilateral pain in the ocular and frontotemporal area, the pain can be felt around the head or neck.
  • Headache lasting for 4-72 hours
  • Light-headedness, sensitivity to sound and light, progressive pain built up.
  • Sensitivity to sound, light and odours
  • Vomiting, feeling sick
  • Disturbed vision

What causes migraines?

  • Hormonal changes such as estrogen fluctuations trigger headaches in a lot of women. As they have a tendency to develop acute migraine during menopause or pregnancy.
  • Foods such as processed food, salty food and aged cheese.
  • Alcohol consumption is a major cause in people.
  • Stress at home or at work.

How are migraine headaches treated?

Migraine is a complex medical condition with a range of symptoms. For most people, the main issue is a severe, painful headache. There are several ways to treat migraine headaches including self-care measures, using prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. Most individuals can take care of mild-to-moderate attacks with the following strategies:

  • Applying a cold compress on the areas of pain
  • Resting with pillows supporting the neck and head
  • Sleeping in a dark and silent room
  • Sipping caffeine

Migraine treatments are helpful to relieve headaches and prevent future attacks. There are several medicines to combat the condition. Medications used to treat migraine can be classified into two broad categories:

Preventive medications:

  • Medications for high blood pressure - Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers
  • Antidepressants - Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Antiseizure drugs - Valproic acid (Depakote), Gabapentin (Neurontin), topiramate (Topamax)
  • Some anti-allergy and antihistamines drugs, including cyproheptadine (Periactin) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Over-the-counter medications:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Drugs such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin and Naproxen fall in this category. These kinds of drugs should be avoided by people with a history of stomach bleeding and ulcers.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Taking acetaminophen is quite safe, even if the migraineur has a history of stomach bleeding and ulcers. This medication, however, should be avoided by individuals who have liver issues.
  • Combination medications: Some pain relievers such as Excedrin Migraine, which contains acetaminophen and aspirin combined with caffeine, are used to combat migraine.

Who would need a migraine treatment?

If a person has more than 4 exhausting attacks per month and each attack lasts for more than 12 hours, he/she is a perfect candidate for the migraine preventive therapy. People in need of the preventive therapy can experience a prolonged aura or weakness and pain-relieving medications fail to work for them.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Cardiovascular drugs are widely used during migraine prevention therapy. So, if the patient is over 60, uses tobacco, or has certain heart conditions, he/she must consult the doctor for some alternate medication.

What are the side effects of migraine treatment?

Preventive medication does not always stop the headaches completely and medications may lead to certain side-effects.

  • Topiramate may cause diarrhoea, nausea, weight loss, memory difficulties and concentration problems.
  • Triptans can cause sleepiness, tingling sensations, tightness in the throat and chest, flushing.
  • Ergotamines can cause nausea,
  • Beta-blockers can cause depression, fatigue, nausea, low blood pressure, dizziness
  • Calcium channel blockers can lead to constipation, weight gain, low blood pressure, dizziness
  • Tricyclic antidepressants can cause to dry mouth, weight gain, low libido, sedation

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

It is recommended to lead a relatively stress-free lifestyle as stress is one of the most common factors that can trigger an attack. Also, a regular sleep cycle consisting of an adequate amount of sleep is very crucial for people who have a history of migraines.

How long does it take to recover?

Migraine prevention does not always ensure complete freedom from the ailment; it is more targeted towards reducing the frequency and severity of the attacks. A person suffering from an attack can take from 4 hours to almost 72 hours, in the worst possible cases, to recover.

What is the cost of migraine treatment in India?

The cost of the treatment varies depending on the particular form of treatment the patient opts for. The traditional medications don't cost much; the newly introduced botox treatment costs around Rs.19,200-Rs.38,400.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Migraine is often a chronic condition in adults. Prevention therapy can reduce the frequency, severity and longevity of the attacks, but the headaches do not seize to happen completely.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

If one suffers chronic migraine pains and is not comfortable with medications, he/she can opt for several unconventional ways to fight the headaches. Acupuncture is one such option. It has been seen that this treatment, in which a practitioner inserts many thin, disposable needles into several areas of the skin at defined points, has had positive results in the treatment. Biofeedback, massage therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy are some other non-traditional ways to treat them. Although studies have shown mixed results, there is some evidence of herbs like feverfew and butterbur somewhat reducing the severity of migraines.

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