Migraine Headaches: What Is A Migraine?
Migraines affect millions of people and is a chronic disorder of moderate to severe headaches, and can cause nausea. Women seems to be more likely prone to suffer migraines.
A migraine headache typically affects one side of the head, the pain is pulsating in nature and can last from 2 to 72 hours. It can occur on one side of the head or alternate sides from one attack to the next. A migraine can be aggravated by physical activity.
One third of sufferers complain of blurred or cloudy vision during a migraine attack, as though they were looking through thick or smoked glass, or in some cases, tunnel vision. For some the aura is like what is seen after a bright light or laser pointer is shined at an eye.
Migraine Headaches Symptoms
- Headache affects one side of the head, from moderate to severe headache
- Nausea occurs in a majority of sufferers
- Sensitivity to bright lights or sunlight
- Affected vision – blurred or aura vision
The effects of migraine may still be felt for some days after the headache has gone. Some people may feel tired and have head pain, cognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal symptoms, and mood changes.
Migraine Headaches: What Causes A Migraine?
The cause of migraine is has not been proven. Some believe it is caused by certain food, others believe it is caused by the environment you are in. While the causes are unknown, certain things may trigger your migraine attack.
Migraine Headaches Triggers
- Lack of sleep
- Bright or flicking lights, strong sunlight
- Cigarette smoke
- Cheese, chocolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Migraines are more likely to occur around menstruation. Other hormonal influences, such as oral contraceptives, pregnancy and menopause may also play a role.
Migraine Headaches: Understanding What Triggers A Migraine
Food and Drinks
It is believed that one of the most common causes of migraines is food. Food triggers seem to include chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, red wine and caffeine. In addition to this, an intolerance to monosodium glutamate found in most Chinese foods and Aspartame, which is the common artificial sweetener, found in most diet foods and drinks, appear to be common contributing factors to the cause of migraines.
Stress and Work
It has also been proven that stress and stressful situations play a big role in causing migraines. Many situations cause stress including long working hours and demanding jobs as well as psychological factors and home lives. Many people who suffer from migraines notice that they tend to occur on weekends.
Because of this, it is important to take measures to relax yourself such a yoga, meditation or massage. Certain aromatherapy oils have also proven to be calming such as peppermint, sandalwood and eucalyptus.
Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines, because fluctuating hormone levels are a major cause of migraines. It is because of this that women tend to see menstrual migraines just before or after their period. As low levels of estrogen has been shown to offset a migraine, women who are going through the menopause may also experience migraines. It is also thought that fluctuating hormone levels is the reason why most migraines are seen in younger people or teenagers.
Migraines are also largely hereditary. It is usual that a migraine patient has at least one relative who suffers migraines and so it is something to look out for in your family if you do suffer from migraine attacks.
Bright Lights and Strong Odors
Extremely bright or flickering lights and strong odors are also strongly linked with the cause of migraines. Perfume, smoke and the smell of citrus fruits are common sensory triggers or migraines.
Lack Of Sleep
Irregular or changes to sleeping patterns have be shown to initiate severe headaches. Not enough sleep or even too much sleep can be known to start a migraine. It is common that migraines start after a long lie in at the weekend.
Certain medications such as hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives have been linked to the cause of migraines. As well as this any medications that are used to dilate blood vessels can trigger severe headaches.
Overuse of pain medication will also increase the severity and frequency of headaches. This is known as the rebound effect and can be caused by overuse of medication in as little as 2 months. It is therefore very important not to use pain relief more than twice a week.
In more recent studies, it has been shown that over half of migraine sufferers have a magnesium deficiency. A lack of magnesium causes the nerves in the brain to misfire. This can lead to visual changes and ultimately migraines. This is easily combated by eating magnesium rich foods like salads and soy or alternatively by taking magnesium supplements.
However, these are not the only causes of migraines. Migraines can be caused by many other factors such as low blood sugar levels, travel sickness and even high altitudes or drastic changes in the weather. The triggers of migraines vary greatly between individuals and so it is vital to keep a record of every migraine attack in order to ascertain the cause of the migraine and attempt to prevent them in the future.
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