Migraine headaches strike millions of migraineurs, but many people don’t understand why they occur or how to stop the debilitating migraine attacks. Here are some of the top FAQ’s regarding migraine headaches.
1) What are migraine headaches?
Migraines are a debilitating neurological illness that involves the nerve muscles and blood vessels in your head, causing severe, excruciating headaches and a multitude of other disabling symptoms. Migraine attacks can occur at any time, and may last for several hours or days.
People who suffer from migraines (migraineurs) often experience their first migraine headache in childhood. For some, migraines disappear for many years, only to return later in life. For most, the pain is constant.
Since migraines are difficult to treat, chronic migraine patients usually cope with them their entire lives.
2) What are all the symptoms of migraines?
Besides throbbing, severe headache, migraineurs may also experience:
- Shooting pain behind the eye
- Extreme sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, and scents
- Severe stomach cramps
- Chronic vomiting
- Chronic diarrhea
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Tinnitus (ear ringing)
3) What are migraines with aura?
Migraines are separated into two main categories: migraines with aura, and migraines without aura.
A migraine aura is a phase that precedes a migraine attack, and may occur as little as thirty minutes before the migraine strikes. “Alice in Wonderland syndrome,” as noted by the famous author, who also suffered from migraines with aura, causes unusual, hallucinatory sensations, in addition to nausea, vomiting, and stroke-like symptoms. Read When Migraine Aura with Aphasia leaves you Lost for Words
Migraine with aura symptoms may include:
- Distorted sense of time and spatial awareness
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Bright, flickering lights in peripheral vision
- Crescent-shaped light hallucination
- Blind spot in peripheral vision
- Olfactory hallucinations (strange scents)
- Tinnitus (ear ringing)
- Partial paralysis in upper torso
- Numbness and tingling
- Speech difficulties
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Recurrent vomiting
- Stomach cramps
4) What are migraine triggers?
Migraine triggers are any factor that contributes to the occurrence and frequency of migraine headaches. While one migraine trigger probably won’t “cause migraines,” an onslaught of migraine triggers can collectively create an environment in your nervous system often referred to as the “migraine brain.” Read Avoiding Migraine Triggers- Here, There and Everywhere
By keeping a migraine diary, and sharing it with your doctor, you can effectively determine which factors most often trigger your migraines. Some migraine triggers cannot be avoided, but an effort must be made to reduce migraine triggers to an absolute minimum, whenever possible.
Common migraine triggers are:
- Food, including red wine, beer, chocolate, red-skinned fruits, aged cheese and meats, fermented foods, yeasted breads, gluten, dairy, cold foods, and nightshade vegetables
- Strong scents, like perfumes and cut grass
- Bright lights, fluorescent light bulbs, stark white backgrounds, and black/white lined patterns
- Weather changes
- Hormonal changes
- Changes in sleep cycles
- Changes in eating patterns
5) Should I see a doctor?
Absolutely- if chronic headaches are occurring, then you must have tests done to ascertain that there is no life-threatening illness or damage, such as brain tumor or stroke.
If possible, seek a neurologist who specializes in migraines or another migraine headache specialist. Read What kind of Doctor should I see for Migraines? Neurologists
6) What migraine medications are available?
There are difference classifications of migraine medications- some treat the head pain itself, some “abort” the migraine attack if caught in time, and others prevent migraines from occurring.
Convention migraine treatments vary according to symptoms, but many such as Topamax may include uncomfortable side effects like nausea, short-term memory loss, brain fog, and…headaches. Read Are You on the Rebound with Your Headache?
7) Which natural ingredients are good for migraines?
A number of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) for migraines have been tested in clinical trials and found to be extremely helpful . For more info, read Natural Supplements and Herbs for migraines
Natural migraine ingredients include:
- Butterbur extract
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Coenzyme Q10
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Read more about migraine headaches:
Integrative Medicine for Migraines- East meets West
Migraine fact sheet: womenshealth.gov
Migraine and Headache Questions
Migraine Research Foundation- FAQ