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MIGRAINE

A migraine is a complex disorder which causes severe pain or throbbing sensation usually on just one-half of the head. Migraine progresses through four stages that include prodroma, aura, headache and postdrome. Migraine is of two types that include a common migraine and classic migraine. A common migraine is more prevalent than a classic migraine.

A common migraine is also known as a migraine without aura, which means a migraine without any early symptoms. A classic migraine is also known as a migraine with aura, which means a migraine with early symptoms.

Worldwide, nearly 15% of the people are affected by migraines. In most of the cases, migraines start at adolescence and get worse with increasing age. Women are more prone than men to have migraines.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The signs and symptoms vary for different types of migraines.

The following are the signs and symptoms of a common migraine:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased urination
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fluid retention
  • Fatigue
  • Vision disturbances
  • Light sensitivity
  • Mood swings
  • Mental fuzziness

The following are the signs and symptoms of classic migraines:

  • Severe headache
  • Food craving
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Hyperactive behaviour
  • Speech difficulty
  • Arm tingling
  • Arm weakness
  • Vision disturbances
  • Light sensitivity
  • Confusion
  • Tingling face and hands

CAUSES

The exact cause of a migraine is not known, but it is said that release of certain chemicals and inflammatory substances affects nerve signals and blood vessels in the brain causing pulsations to be painful. Other causes of a migraine are as follows:

  • A drop in the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) produced by ovaries can cause throbbing headaches. This condition usually happens just before the menstrual monthly period and is known as menstrual migraines.
  • Stress can also be one of the reasons for migraine as during stressful conditions certain protein particles are released, which dilate the blood vessels in the brain causing migraine.
  • Insufficient sleep can cause instability of certain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in the brain and may lead to migraine.
  • Dietary habits like skipping meals, over intake of caffeinated beverages, food additives like sweeteners, preservatives can trigger migraine.

RISK FACTORS

The following are the factors that may increase the risk of developing migraine:

  • Family history of a migraine
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Environmental conditions

The following are the complications of a migraine:

  • Chronic migraine
  • Status migraine
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Overuse of a medication

DIAGNOSIS

The following are the diagnostic tests for migraine:

  • A blood test is performed to check for blood vessel problems and toxin levels in the blood.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging uses the magnetic field that helps in viewing explicit images of brain and blood vessels.
  • Computerized tomography scan uses series of x-rays to give detailed view of cross-sectional images of the brain.
  • A spinal tap is a procedure which involves spinal fluid analysis collected from spinal canal to suspect any bleeding in the brain or other possible conditions. This test is also known as the lumbar puncture.

TREATMENT

Thefollowing are the treatment options for migraine:

  • Pain relievers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs block the pain pathways in the brain and help in treating mild migraines.
  • Triptan medications effectively relieve pain and other symptoms of migraine by causing constriction of blood vessels in the brain.
  • Anti-seizure drugs and cardiovascular drugs are used to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
  • Certain anti-depressants potentially help in preventing migraines by affecting the level of serotonin and other brain chemicals.

PREVENTION

The following are few tips to prevent migraine:

  • Control blood glucose level
  • Get sufficient amount of sleep daily
  • Reduce exposure to loud noise and bright lights
  • Prevent excess  exposure to intense stimuli
  • Practice relaxation exercises like yoga and meditation to reduce stress

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