What is migraine?

A migraine is characterized by an excruciating pulsating headache followed by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sound and smells. A migraine can last for several hours and sometimes even for days.

If you get three or more headaches every week, and you need to take painkillers almost everyday for the headaches, you need to consult your family physician or a general physician

How is migraine caused?

Migraine is usually one-sided, though children experience it on both sides of their head.

The root cause of a migraine still remains a mystery. The researchers and doctors do not have clear answers as to why migraines occur, but potential theories of the causes include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Allergies
  • Dehydration
  • Drinking a large amount of alcohol
  • Certain medications such as sleeping pills, contraceptive pills
  • Nervous system disorder
  • Blocked or irregular blood vessels, and circulatory system
  • Family history
  • Abnormalities in the brain chemicals
  • Loud music
  • Irregular blood sugar levels
  • Oversleeping
  • Missing a meal
  • Certain foods items such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine can trigger a migraine in some persons

What can make you prone to migraines?

Some causes of migraine typical to Indian patients are:

  • Applying mehendi to hair
  • Taking bath with cold water
  • Long exposure to the sun
  • Hot and humid summer weather
  • Sinusitis
  • Tooth pain

What are the symptoms of a migraine? How is migraine diagnosed?

Generally, migraines have a pattern. Migraine attacks go through 4 different stages. However, some people may not experience all the four stages.

  • There are usually warning signs that appear before a migraine occurs. This period is called Prodrome. The warning signs which occur a day or two before a migraine include:
    • Feeling lethargic
    • Dizziness
    • Drowsiness
    • Loss of appetite
    • Constipation
    • Mood swings from depression to ecstatic
    • Frequent urination
    • Increased thirst
    • Stiff neck
    • Sensitivity to light and sound
    • Fatigue
  • The next stage is called Aura which are symptoms of the nervous system. During this stage, you may feel as if someone is touching you, or feel your muscles grow weak. You may also experience motor ( movement ) or speech disturbances. Aura symptoms may appear 5 – 20 minutes before a migraine and build up to last from 30 – 60 minutes.
    Some common aura symptoms include:

    • Difficulty while speaking
    • Hearing humming noises, rhythmic sounds or music
    • Sudden uncontrollable jerking movements
    • Seeing flashes of light, bright spots or shadows and shapes
    • Sudden vision loss for few minutes
    • Pins and needles sensations in arms or legs
    • Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
    • Mild temporary paralysis on one side of the body
  • The third stage is when the migraine attack takes place. An attack can last from 1 hour to 72 hours. The attack is characterized by:
    • Severe almost traumatic throbbing pain on one side of the head. In some people, it may also occur on both sides of the head.
    • Nausea and vomiting may occur in some people
    • Fainting spells
    • Sensitivity to light, smell, touch, and sounds
    • Loss of appetite
    • Blurry vision
    • Irritability
    • Nervousness
  • In most people, migraines remain undiagnosed, as it is brushed off as a severe headache.You need to see a doctor immediately if you experience:
    • Severe, throbbing headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Vision problems
    • Weakness and Numbness
    • Seizures
    • Pulsating headache after a head injury
    • Sudden severe headaches for long periods after the age of 50

Diagnosis

A doctor will diagnose you with migraine, on the basis of your personal medical history, family’s medical history, symptoms, your lifestyle and after performing physical and neurological exams which include, testing your strength, reflexes, coordination, and your short-term memory.

The doctor may also suggest some other tests such as Blood tests, MRI, CT scan, and Spinal Tap to rule out the possibilities of any other disorder.

What are the complications of migraine?

The complications of migraine if left untreated are:

    • Long-lasting migraines (up to 72 hours) which may require hospitalization
    • A stroke due to bleeding in the brain
    • Symptoms of the Aura stage can last for up to a week
    • Epileptic seizure
    • Mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and substance abuse.