Migraines are severe headaches that affect over 30 million Americans per year. Marked by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, migraines are debilitating and disruptive, sometimes with little or no relief for days at a time. Understanding their progression, potential triggers and effective treatments can greatly help those suffering to combat migraines and regain control of their lives.
Characteristics of Migraines
As far as severe headaches go, migraines are in a category of their own. Generally manifesting in childhood, what starts as a localized headache in one area of the head turns into throbbing, pulsating pain that causes nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, mood swings, fatigue and even sinus pain and congestion. They are exhausting and debilitating and, for many who suffer, can last anywhere from two to four days.
Migraines follow a four-stage pattern:
- The first stage is known as the prodromal stage, and it starts one to two days before the migraine comes on. The individual may notice being thirstier than usual, craving specific foods, yawning more often than usual and going to the bathroom more. He or she may also become irritable and tired.
- In the second stage, the aura stage, the visual disturbances that accompany migraines begin to pop up. The individual may experience flickering of lights, areas where he or she appears to lose vision, and has difficulty focusing. He or she may also notice difficulty concentrating or speaking and may feel some numbness or tingling throughout the body.
- The third stage, the actual attack, is when the headache begins. Usually starting above the eyes and moving to one side of the head (although sometimes it can cover the entire head), the headache becomes more intense, often throbbing and pulsating. During this stage, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and worsening of symptoms during physical activity may also occur.
- The last stage is the postdrome stage, the period after the headache when the individual is exhausted, fatigued, lacking in energy and sluggish.
Migraine Headache Relief
Being aware of migraine triggers may go a long way in helping patients prevent migraine attacks. Some common triggers for these severe headaches include:
- Specific types of foods, especially those containing MSG, caffeine, nitrates or alcohol
- Missing meals
- Environmental factors
- Lack of or too much sleep
Migraine headaches are treated in several ways, depending on history of migraines, severity of symptoms and efficacy of previous treatment. Medication is one of the go-to primary treatments for migraines –from over-the-counter migraine formulas of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine, to prescription medications that work to constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways in the brain. In some cases, anti-depressants, opioids and even beta blockers are used to treat migraine headaches. There are also alternative treatment therapies that have proven effective in easing migraine symptoms. These include acupuncture, massage therapy and biofeedback.
If you are suffering from migraines or persistent headaches, contact MISI today at 877-504-9759 to schedule a consultation with one of our migraine specialists.