According to the National Headache Foundation, approximately 28 million Americans suffer from migraines. When a migraine occurs, overactive nerves emit signals that cause the blood vessels in the brain to constrict and then expand. This rapid adjustment produces a painful sensation that throbs or pulsates. Migraines tend to last for around four hours, although they can last for several days or even a week. The duration of migraines and the frequency with which they recur vary from person to person.
One of the most important steps in migraine management is to know the signs of an upcoming episode. So, just what do those signs look like?…
Signs of Migraines
One of the most common signs of migraines is a headache starting out as a dull aching sensation that develops into a throbbing sort of pain. This pain might start on one side of the head and migrate to the other, it might be isolated to the front of the head, or it could feel as if it were impacting the entire head. Typically, physical exertion can make a migraine worse.
Of course, migraines are often accompanies by other signs as well…
Other Common Symptoms
These other common symptoms of these severe headaches include:
- nausea and vomiting
- intense coolness or warmth
- lack of appetite
- sensitivity to particular smells, sounds, or bright light
- pallid skin
- dizziness and/or blurred vision
In much rarer cases, a migraine can also be accompanied by fever.
Now, not all migraines are the same. Knowing more about the different types of migraines can help someone better understand their condition and triggers, which can make treatment easier. So, just what are the different kinds of migraines?….
Types of Migraines
Migraines come in two basic varieties: with or without an aura. Auras are signals that a migraine is about to occur. Migraines with auras are called “classic migraines” while migraines without auras are called “common migraines.” An aura, therefore, is one of the most reliable signs of classic migraines. It can begin up to an hour prior to the onset of migraine pain and last between 15 minutes to the entire hour.
What does an aura look and feel like, though?…
Symptoms of Migraine Auras
Symptoms of an aura include:
- blurry vision
- blind spots
- jagged or wavy lines
- temporary loss of vision
- flashing dots or bright lights
Another important part of migraines are triggers, which are certain actions or stimuli that may increase the risk of experiencing a migraine…
While doctors are unsure of the precise causes of migraines, they have observed a relationship between migraines and certain changes in the brain. Migraines also appear to be, in part, hereditary; that includes the potential for inheriting certain specific triggers of migraines.
Many factors can trigger these headaches. Among them, the most common are stress and fatigue. Sudden or extreme weather changes—such as strong winds, storm fronts, and changes in altitude or barometric pressure—are also common triggers.
What someone puts in their body can also affect migraine potential…
Certain foods can trigger migraines in some people. Common food triggers include aged cheeses and foods that contain additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nitrates (found in foods such as hot dogs, pepperoni, and lunch meats). On the flip side, a lack of nutrition, such as from skipping meals altogether, can be triggering as well.
Alcohol and caffeine are other known dietary triggers of migraines. In the case of caffeine, migraines can be triggered by either too much caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine. Interestingly, caffeine can be an effective treatment for an acute migraine headache as well.
Other common triggers of migraines include:
- bright lights
- changes in sleeping habits or patterns
Now, all of this information is great. However, how does someone treatmigraines?…
Migraines cannot be cured. However, people can effectively manage and treat them. Treatment can include pain and nausea-relieving medicine. Pain relief medication for migraines can include over-the-counter (OTC) drugs containing aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and caffeine.
It’s important to note, though, that OTC remedies aren’t perfect…
OTC Remedies for Migraines
One danger of taking OTC medicines for migraine pain relief? They can have the opposite effect of what you intended. If you take too much, especially, you can worsen the pain instead of relieving it. Additionally, migraine sufferers can become dependent on such medicines or develop rebound headaches from taking them.
If you’re taking OTC medicines for migraine pain relief more than three times in a given week, your doctor may be able to prescribe you a different medication that works more effectively. Doctors can also prescribe medicines to combat nausea associated with migraines. Of course, there are other cutting-edge ways to determine the best treatment method for you…
Biofeedback for Migraine Treatment
One such option is biofeedback. Biofeedback involves connecting yourself to sensors, which will then collect information about your body. After analyzing this data, you and your doctor can better determine a more specialized approach to treatment. Specifically, with biofeedback, you can better identify stressors that may triggers migraines. Based on this information, you can learn and then use special techniques to thwart a migraine before it fully develops.
Of course, there’s even more technologically advanced, even shocking, treatment methods than this one…
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Migraine Treatment
Another approach includes transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). With this approach, you can place a magnetic stimulator on the back of the head at a migraine’s onset. From there, these stimulators can deliver a magnetic pulse to the brain that can reduce or halt pain altogether.
While these treatments are great, we haven’t even discussed the most effective method for treating migraines…
The best way to treat a migraine, of course, is to prevent one from occurring in the first place. The best way to do that is to avoid your known triggers. So, the best prevention technique is to learn what triggers your migraines and then keep track of them. Discipline yourself to avoid these triggers, including managing your stress levels and making sure to get enough sleep.
For example, if a woman knows that she tends to get migraines around the time of her period, she can plan to take preventative medication around those times.
Just how do those medications work, though?…
How Prescription Migraine Preventative Medications Work
Preventive migraine medications work in various ways, depending on the type of drug used.
For example, some doctors prescribe antidepressants to their patients. An SNRI like Effexor XR, for example, is sometimes used to help prevent migraines. This medication works by preventing the brain from rapidly reabsorbing two neurotransmitters associated with mood, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Another newer class of medications, though, may be more effective at preventing migraines…
CGRP Inhibitors for Migraines
CGRP inhibitors, like Aimovig and Ajovy, are newer drugs that work to reduce the number of migraines someone may experience. They work by blocking CGRP receptors in the brain. Why? So that CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) cannot bind to and activate these receptors. Notably, doctors believe that this binding can play a key role in creating migraines.
When it comes to migraine management, there’s no “one size fits all” treatment option. After all, everyone has different migraine triggers, which means everyone will have a unique way to prevent and treat these extreme headaches. The best way to begin treatment is to start evaluating your triggers and speaking to your doctor.