Migraine Headache

What are migraines?

Migraines are a type of headache that are characterized by intense throbbing or pulsing pain in one area of the head. Migraines can last for hours or days, and are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.


Who’s at risk for migraines?

Anyone can develop migraines, but they are more common in women than men. Migraines may also run in families, suggesting a genetic component to the condition.


What causes migraines?

The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, but they are thought to be related to changes in the brain and nervous system. Triggers for migraines can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Certain foods or drinks
  • Changes in weather or barometric pressure
  • Sensory stimuli such as bright lights or strong smells


How does migraines start?

Migraines typically start with a warning sign or aura, such as visual disturbances or tingling sensations. This is followed by the onset of the headache pain, which can be severe and disabling.


What are the symptoms of migraines?

Symptoms of migraines can vary, but may include:

  • Intense throbbing or pulsing pain in one area of the head
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Visual disturbances or other sensory changes
  • Lightheadedness or fainting


How are migraines diagnosed?

Migraines are typically diagnosed based on a person's symptoms and medical history. Imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, may be used to rule out other causes of headache pain.


How can migraines be treated?

Treatment for migraines may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin may be effective in relieving mild to moderate migraine pain.
  • Prescription medications: Certain prescription medications, such as triptans, may be used to relieve migraine pain and associated symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding triggers for migraines, such as certain foods or drinks, may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing may help reduce stress and manage migraines.


What complications may occur with migraines?

Complications of migraines may include:

  • Chronic migraine: Some people may experience migraines on a daily or near-daily basis, which can be difficult to manage.
  • Medication overuse headache: Overuse of pain medications, even those prescribed for migraines, can lead to medication overuse headache, which can be difficult to treat.
  • Status migrainosus: This is a severe and prolonged form of migraine that can last for several days or even weeks.


How can I prevent migraines?

Preventing migraines may involve avoiding triggers, such as certain foods or stressors, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and good sleep habits. In some cases, medications may be prescribed to prevent migraines from occurring.


Long-term management of migraines

Long-term management of migraines involves ongoing treatment and monitoring for any complications that may develop. Keeping a headache diary can be helpful in identifying triggers and tracking the frequency and severity of migraines.


What is recent research saying about migraines?

Recent research on migraines includes:

  • A study published in 2021 found that people with migraines may have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.
  • Researchers are also exploring new treatments for migraines, including non-pharmacological interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation.


Where can I go for more information on migraines?

The Migraine Research Foundation and the American Migraine Foundation are both helpful for more information on migraines. Additionally, speaking with a healthcare provider or neurologist can provide more personalized information and treatment options.