Migraine is a type of headache, which is known as unilateral headache in medical terms. This is a unique type of headache which affects a person within a certain time period a few days, a few weeks, or in some cases even a few hours – and usually lasts for quite a testing length of time. Once the pain starts, it subsides itself and recurs as episodes to the person suffering from it. The pain doesn’t last continuously for an extended period of time like general headaches but affects the person in episodes; that is affects time after time, with intervals between each case.
People tend to mistakenly refer to normal headaches as migraine every time it becomes more painful than the last, or confuse it with stress headaches. A definite explanation for why people have migraine hasn’t been found yet. However, tests and studies have been continuously carried out. Medical tests taken on migraine patients, especially during an episode, have noted intracranial vasoconstriction followed by extracranial vasodilatation. What that means is that the nerves inside the brain stiffen while the external nerves open up, which causes an anomaly in the blood flow inside and outside the brain, but the reason for this is still under research.
There are various factors that precipitate a migraine attack. One, hereditary and genetic factors. If the parents have migraine then it is likely that the child might also show the same symptoms. Second, familial factors. If someone within the family, or someone living within the group is suffering from migraine, despite it not being a contractual disease, the person might begin to have migraine episodes. Third, it is mostly seen in specific age groups, specifically women between the ages of 15-50. It doesn’t mean that men don’t have migraine, but tests have noted that females between the ages of 15 and 50 show more cases of migraine. However, migraine can be seen in ages earlier than 15 as well as later than 50, and it can be seen in both males and females. 70% of females are seen to have been affected by migraine.
Due to the different ratio of male and female patients, researchers are studying whether the hormonal changes in the female body creates more likeliness of being affected. Migraine attacks have been seen to affect females whose menstrual cycle has just begun, as well as in females above 50 when the menstrual cycle stops. These days, heavy smokers, stress workers, and heavy drinkers have been noted to have been more affected by migraine.
The main symptom of migraine is headache, and is mostly unilateral which affects one side of the head. The headache brings throbbing pain that feels like you’re being pricked by sharp objects, and then it recurs in intervals with immense pain. It typically affects unilaterally or sometimes pains only a specific region of the head, and in rare cases cause complete pain to the entire head. Along with the headache, most people feel nauseous and have vomiting tendencies, while limbs start feeling numb and the eyes start losing focus. For migraine patients, certain lights, certain sounds, smells, and colours increase the pain more than when the episode began. Such cases can be noted when people complain that they have a headache after walking in the sun, or looking at a certain colour or coming across a certain smell. What we should note is that migraine patients tend to realize pre-attacks, or sensations before the actual migraine episode begins. They can sense an aura (medical term), which is generally a sensation of blurred vision, or seeing a faint shadow pass by or have a lightning like bright vision sensation. So, as soon as they notice an aura, they can prepare themselves for the attack.
Once the attack takes over, the patient becomes extremely light sensitive and will turn off every light, close the windows and draw the blinds because even a little hint of light increases the pain significantly. Similarly, in some cases, even music lovers who get an episode will try to turn off every sound, and even voices around them because during the episode they become extremely audio-sensitive. When such episodes take place, they can last for a couple of hours or in some cases, can last for days during which time the patients turn away food and stop eating.
If these symptoms aren’t addressed properly, various complications may arise. These are the two major complications that are observed when a patient fails to address the symptoms on time: (a) when the pain increases significantly, it is highly likely that the patient will slowly fall into depression; (b) due to the pain, the patient stops eating which might lead to malnutrition, which in turn makes the patient even weaker. In other cases, migraine might also cause memory loss due to the immense pain that takes over the patient.
In terms of dietary observations, migraine patients seem to feet an increase in pain with increased intake of protein foods such as cheese. Other foods such as chocolates, wines, yogurt, as well as citric foods along with smoking are also seen to increase pain during an episode.
Migraine does not seem to affect people of only a specific occupation. People working in any field of work can be affected by migraine; however, regular smokers as well as people who take hormonal medicine are seen to have migraine tendencies. `
Painkillers don’t take any effect on migraine, but if taken at the moment when one notices the aura itself, it might help subside the pain to a certain extent. Anti-depressant medication, if prescribed before migraine gets serious, can help deal with the pain to a certain extent. The most effective treatment for migraine is acupuncture. Acupuncture and Acupressure are the most effective treatments for any migraine patient, along with head massages. Acupuncture is the only medical practice that might be able to cure migraine completely.
Self-acupressure at home can be a home remedy. Applying pressure on specific pressure points like the back of the head where the neck line begins creates ease for the patient. Head massages also help ease the pressure on the head, as it is effective in normalizing the blood flow within the nerves in the head. It has also been noted that some migraine patients feel their pain subside after they vomit. So migraine patients can be advised to drink a few glasses of warm water and vomit to lessen their pain.