A migraine is a severe, painful headache that is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days.
What causes migraines?
Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include:
- Allergies and allergic reactions
- Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors or perfume.
- Physical or emotional stress
- Changes in sleep patterns or irregular sleep
- Smoking or exposure to smoke
- Skipping meals or fasting
- Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, hormone fluctuations during menopause onset
- Tension headaches
- Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami)
What are the symptoms of migraine?
Symptoms of migraine can occur a while before the headache, immediately before the headache, during the headache, and after the headache. Although not all migraines are the same, typical symptoms include:
- Moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head, but switching in successive migraines
- Pulsing and throbbing head pain
- Increasing pain during physical activity
- Inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
Many people experience migraines with auras just before or during the head pain, but most do not. Auras are perceptual disturbances such as confusing thoughts or experiences and the perception of strange lights, sparkling or flashing lights, lines in the visual field, blind spots, pins and needles in an arm or leg, or unpleasant smells.
How is migraine treated and prevented?
Migraine treatment (abortive therapies) and prevention (prophylactic therapies) focus on avoiding triggers, controlling symptoms, and taking medicines. Without any treatment, migrain will become more worse.
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