Migraine: an Introduction to a Full Understanding

Migraines are becoming increasingly common amongst adults these days. They are described as chronic and severe headaches (usually occurring only on half of the head) that are caused by some kind of neurological disorder. Besides a recurrent headache that can last from several hours to a few days, there are many other symptoms that a patient experiences. These include vomiting, nausea, blurred or distorted vision, photophobia (which is a sensitivity to light) and phonophobia (sensitivity to sound).

The pain of migraines can be extremely severe, easily affecting the patient’s daily routine. Usually it occurs unilaterally in the head; which means a pounding headache in either side of the head. But it may vary in different patients. It is described as a pulsating pain which is aggravated by loud sounds and physical activity.

Migraines and its various phases

Researchers now believe that almost 1/3 of the people who suffer from recurrent migraines experience a preliminary mild headache associated with other symptoms and this phase is called an aura. The aura serves as a cautionary signal to the patient that migraine is about to occur. In fact, neurologists believe that there are three other phases to a migraine; however, they also stress that it is not necessary that every person who suffers from migraines also experiences all these phases. These phases are,

  • Prodome: This phase occurs hours or even days before the headache and it constitutes of symptoms like irritability, mood swings, fatigue and/or depression etc.
  • Aura: This comes just before the actual migraine.
  • Pain: This is the actual migraine pain.
  • Postdrome: These are the effects that a patient feels after the migraine.

Causes of migraines

The actual cause(s) of migraines is still unknown. However, it is believed that genes may play a major role in determining who is likely to experience migraines in life. Factors that are believed to cause migraines include,

  • Genetics: a study of twins has revealed that there is a 51% surety of genetic influence when it comes to recurrent migraines.
  • Triggers: for each individual patient, there could be any number of different kinds of triggers that prompt the migraines.
  • Diet: Researchers are still trying to find some authentic link between certain dietary elements (such as Monosodium Glutamate) and Migraines. Evidence has been found but not consistently.
  • Physiological Features: it is believed that hormonal imbalances and/or certain physical conditions may promote migraines; such as menstruation, pregnancy, illness, fatigue and hunger.
  • Psychological Aspects: Psychological aspects, such as insomnia, fear and stress are believed to be prominent factors in causing migraines.

Treatment of migraines

There are both preventive and abortive medications for migraines. As their names suggest, the preventive medicines, prevent the occurrence of migraines and can be taken daily by patients who suffer from frequent migraines. The abortive medicines can be taken to reduce the pain or symptoms of the headache when it has started.

Genetic health tests can be used for common genetic diseases such as diabetes type 1 or obesity. Read up more about the causes and genetics of obesity.

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