Migraines are more than just a simple headache. Yes, they are primarily consisted of headache, but usually occur only on one side of the head. In addition, the pain can be quite brutal, and is often accompanied by vomiting, severe nausea and extreme sensitivity to noise and light.
Headaches typically don’t happen evenly on the head and causes a lot of pain. Migraines tend to build up gradually and can last for a few hours or days. However, it often strikes suddenly and can be painful from the beginning. A headache cannot be modeled after classic migraine, but it still can be considered as a type of headache. On certain people, migraines occur on all parts of the head and manifest themselves as dull ache rather than sharp pain. Fortunately, these types of headaches respond well to typical treatment for migraine. Migraine triggers include common foods or beverages such as chocolate and wine, also stress, scents, moods, drugs and hormonal disorders. Somehow, relaxation after an intense stressful period can also induce headache.
Some people immediately aware when a migraine is imminent, because it is preceded by sensory disorders, called the aura, which includes blurred vision and flashing lights. Migraines are three times more likely in females and some females experience migraine headaches that follow their menstrual cycle. Headaches may subside during pregnancy, but often return again after the child is born and the menstrual cycle returns.
Diagnosis of Migraine
The International Headache Society (IHS) has developed the standard for the diagnosis of migraine with or without aura. If symptoms are painfully familiar, be sure to consult your doctor.
In general, chronic migraine without aura lasts for 4 hours to 3 days and has at least some of these characteristics:
- It doesn’t happen evenly on all parts of the head
- It is felt as throbs
- The pain can be severe to the point it inhibits the daily activities
- The pain can be worsened when climbing stairs or performing serious routine physical activity
- Acute sensitivity to sound and light
Migraine with aura has three or more of the following signs:
- Disrupted speech
- Visual disturbances
- An aura symptom that fully reaches peak in five minutes
- An aura symptom that lasts for more than one hour
One good thing about migraine with aura is that there should be enough delay to get medical attention and to stop the headache from reaching its most painful level.
Treatment of Migraine
If your headaches are intrusive and disrupt your daily life, an effective treatment should be included, for example by establishing proper organization of your lifestyle and removing activities that can trigger migraines, although some triggers can’t be easily avoided like bright sunshine and common noises; such as the sound of traffic and children playing. The doctor may also suggest some preventive drugs.
When migraine occurs, many people find it helpful to stay in a completely quiet and dark room until their symptoms completely disappear. Some migraine sufferers shut the curtain, turn off the light, lie on the bed and pull the blanket over their heads to block as much as sound and light as possible.
Pain relievers such as naproxen or aspirin may provide some relief, especially when taken very early after headache begins. The sooner you treat your condition, the better. If severe nausea and vomiting already occur, taking oral medication may no longer work effectively. There are other options available, including taking the drug intravenously or rectally. Your doctor may prescribe a type of medicine called anti-emetic to stop the vomiting and/or nausea. Your doctor may also give prescribed drugs that are effective against migraine. For example triptans, which inhibit the release of substances that trigger migraine (Imitrex, Zomig, etc.), dihydroergotamine, a medication that narrows the arteries and veins, and Butalbital (Fioricet or Fiornal).
Migraine sufferers who experience nasal congestion, watery eyes or other symptoms may actually have a sinus headache. These headaches shouldn’t be confused with typical sinusitis as they do not respond to any medical treatment for sinusitis.
If you have headaches more than once a week, then an effective preventive treatment must be high on your list. Your first step should be to identify and avoid any headache triggers whenever possible. The doctor may also prescribe beta-blockers to inhibit the production of adrenaline, which can induce migraines, or you can order a drug called valproate, an anti-seizure drug, which may help prevent migraine. In general, patients take these drugs at the time when headaches are likely to strike, for example before menstruation or during the weekend.
People who get “weekend headaches” can be caused by changes in sleeping pattern. If weekend arrives, you may need to follow similar sleeping pattern just like in workdays. Try to get up at the exact same time during weekends as it does during the rest of the week. The lack of sleep is a problem for people who suffer from migraine. As a matter of fact, fatigue is a very common cause of migraine. In other words, watching TV until 3 AM, then get up at 6.30 AM to get prepared for a picnic is a big no-no if you have migraines.
Additionally, some patients with migraine find that certain foods may trigger migraine. However, not all migraine sufferers have food triggers, and abnormal sensitivity to certain foods is different in each case. In other words, chocolate can trigger a headache on you, but not on a friend who also gets similar type of migraine. Her triggers could be peanuts or cheese, something that won’t bother you at all.
Are you addicted to chocolate? Sometimes chocolate is a serious migraine trigger, but you may not need to avoid it completely. Simply eat a lower amount than usual, for example once a week and find an amount where the severity and frequency is still bearable. But if you find that chocolate is probably not a trigger, then it is a keeper. Keep a daily log of everything you eat and beverages you drink and eliminate all potential triggers from your daily diet and see whether they affect the severity and frequency of your headaches.
Common Migraine Triggers
Based on the research of the National Headache Foundation, some foods can trigger headaches and you should avoid them whenever possible. All foods in this list contain tyramine, a substance found naturally in the decomposition of tyrosine. Higher level of tyramine occurs in preserved or fermented foods.
- Cheese such as Brie, Emmentaler, Stilton, Cheddar, Camembert (American, Velveeta, cream cheese and cottage, should be okay.)
- Herring (dried or pickled)
- Cream (more than half a cup)
- Nuts, peanut butter, or foods like crackers or biscuits that contain nuts
- Sourdough bread and crackers containing chocolate or cheese
- Beans and peas
- Foods that contain salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sauce, seasonings and meat tenderizer
- Figs, grapes, papaya, avocado, and plum
- Pizza (with cheese)
- Too much tea, coffee or coca cola (more than two cups each day)
- Sausage, mortadella, or hot dogs