The neurological medical condition that causes severe headache pain accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and visual disturbances is known as a migraine headache.
What can often be a throbbing pain on one side of the head is far more intense than a run-of-the-mill headache that can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Migraine headaches are often debilitating, making it impossible to function normally for several days.
What Can Trigger Migraine Headaches?
Migraines are believed to be brought on by the dilation of blood vessels in the brain, a typical neurological brainstem function, and a family history of migraine headaches. Triggers include but are not limited to:
- Strenuous physical activity without proper nutrition
- Hormonal changes & Menopause
- Menstrual cycle fluctuations
- Food allergies, especially those containing tyramine, phenylethylamine, nitrates, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and aspartame
- Strong smells
These common types of migraine triggers are all known to start the symptoms of migraine headaches, but the frequency and severity of each person’s attacks can vary dramatically as the cause of migraines is unique to the individual experiencing one.
What are the Different Types of Migraine?
Migraine headaches are classified by their symptoms, location of pain, intensity, and duration. Each type of headache may have different triggers, but all are classified as migraines.
- Classic Migraine
Severe migraine headaches classified as “Classic Migraine” are characterized by an intense, throbbing ache on one side of the head that lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. The pulsating pain is accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light or loud noise and blurred vision or blind spots. This is also known as an aura migraine.
- Common Migraine
Migraines labelled as “Common Migraine” affect both sides of the head and do not start with an aura. It is also possible to experience nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound or light. Differentiating between a Classic and Common Migraine can be difficult, but typically, if there are no preceding flashing lights, blind spots, or light sensitivity before the migraine pain sets in, it is known as a common migraine.
How Does A Migraine Happen?
Those who suffer from migraines will experience migraine pain in three stages.
1. The first stage is known as the prodrome stage. This stage is marked by the precursors to migraine headaches, such as sensitivity to sounds, smells, bright lights, and stress. In the case of common migraines, individuals genetically predisposed to the neurological condition may not experience any of these symptoms before the onset of pain. They, therefore, may experience the second stage without warning.
2. The second stage of a migraine is intense, severe head pain on one or both sides of the head. Some individuals may continue to experience symptoms from the prodromal phase, such as nausea, vomiting, double vision, and sensitivity to light and sound. It is the second stage of a migraine that can last the longest, with some reporting migraine pain lasting for up to 72 hours.
3. The third stage is known as the postdrome phase, and it describes migraine side effects after the initial head pain has subsided. This may include exhaustion, hypersensitivity to light or sound, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or muscle weakness. It may also be accompanied by pain on the side of the body and food cravings.
What Treatments Are Effective for Migraines?
Migraine sufferers have difficulty finding treatment options that will immediately relieve their pain. Although lifestyle changes may help some avoid triggers, unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution to treating migraine headaches, so many sufferers will have a trial and error period with different medications until they find what works best for them.
Some of the more effective treatments of migraine headaches include:
- Over the counter painkillers – Common options include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen (Aleve).
- Prescription medications – Popular options include triptans, sumatriptans, betablockers for blood pressure, and antidepressants.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – Commonly prescribed antibiotics like Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen.
- Anti-seizure medications – While they don’t stop the pain, anticonvulsants such as Topamax and Neurontin work to slow down the frequency of migraine attacks.
- Alternative therapies – Migraine sufferers have had success with supplements such as CBD oil, acupuncture, chiropractic care, meditation, massage, biofeedback, and hormone replacement therapies.
- Botox Treatment – Doctors will inject Botox into trigger points for those who suffer from chronic migraines to prevent the headache before it starts.
If you think that you or a loved one might be susceptible to risk factors that cause migraines, it’s essential to consult with your primary healthcare practitioner or you could try finding a specialist through professional neurology or migraine organisations.
While there is no cure for migraines, you can find an effective acute treatment that will help relieve symptoms and preventive treatments to keep attacks from happening in the future.