Migraine Headaches:
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What is a Migraine?

Have you ever had a terrible and throbbing pain in your head and neck that seems to only affect one half at a time? Did it persist for hours and even days? Then it probably wasn't just any old headache, it was more than likely a Migraine attack, which can plague anyone, from a small child to a nonagenarian or older and a Migraine is a very painful type of unilateral headache and is a neurological syndrome, manifested in the form of headaches, nausea and altered bodily perceptions.

The word 'Migraine' has been borrowed from the old French word 'Migraigne' and was derived from the Greek word 'Hemicrania' which means 'Half of the skull'; this is because Migraines mostly cause throbbing pain on one side of the head due to the abnormal dilation or contraction of the blood vessels in the head; this pain is described differently by every individual sufferer and the occurrence of Migraines depends on a number of factors such as age, gender and the type of Migraine one suffers from.

Not many people understand what a Migraine is and few have taken the trouble to get themselves properly diagnosed; some people wonder if Migraines are hereditary, the answer to this is not a definitive one; there are chances that Migraines are hereditary but it hasn't been proved; a recent study showed that around 15% of the total population suffer from Migraine; it is one of the most common problems that people face these days; frequent and severe headaches are usually the major symptom observed by people with Migraine; thus, in simple words, Migraine is termed as a severe headache which lasts anywhere between 4 to 75 hours; Migraines plague 20% of the women population and only 6% of the men and the research revealed that amongst the population affected by Migraine, 75% are women as they are more susceptible to it; most people, who are prone to Migraines, will get an attack before they hit 40!

A Migraine is a throbbing and severe headache that often starts on one side of the head and can be distantly related to vascular headaches; the ache rises in a particular side of the head; it may spread and increase to other parts of the head as well; the pain arises due to the abnormal enlargement of the blood vessels 'Vasodilatation', this enlargement stretches the nerve, which coils the blood vessel; the blood vessel that is affected, is the temporal artery; the temporal artery expands itself during the Migraine attack, which is located outside the skull and under the skin of the forehead, near the temple.

The expansion of the temporal artery stresses and stretches the nerves around it, which forces them to release certain chemicals, which combine; these chemicals are the reason for the pain and inflammation and may also cause the artery to expand further, which again amplifies the pain; the stretched nerves affect the sympathetic nervous system, which is primarily responsible for digestive secretions, contraction of blood vessels and increase in heart rate; as the sympathetic nervous system also controls the pain in the body, increased headache in a Migraine attack is directly responsible for the other symptoms like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.


There are certain typical features that can help you identify whether or not an headache is a Migraine headache or not; the typical features of a Migraine headache are an headaches that lasts from 4 to 75 hours, with the pain mostly on one side of the head and neck and normal activity increases the intensity of the Headache; the hands and feet turn cold and/or sweaty; you get a feeling of extreme irritation, you feel like Vomiting and feel Nauseas and you have an increased Sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines in Men:

At times, Migraine comes with an 'Aura'; a man can witness some visuals like a sudden flash of light, or a sudden black phase, or some disturbed and cluttered images; such a Migraine is called a classic Migraine; a common Migraine doesn't come with an Aura and is more frequent than a classic Migraine; Migraines can be mild or severe, but in either case, it is very painful and it can be tough to deal with Migraine attacks.

There are various Migraine symptoms in men that indicate that the pain is on its way such as an Headache and a feeling of Irritation, Depression, Tiredness and fatigue; some Muscle pain; an Aura; Pain on one side of the head and neck; Nausea; Vomiting; a Lack of appetite and/or a Lack of concentration.

Migraine symptomss Without Headaches:

When a sufferer suffers from Migraine without an headache it is very difficult to judge the exact reason why; usually when people experience some visual disturbances they go to an eye specialist for a check-up and it is there that they may end up being diagnosed; but it is really difficult for a normal sufferer to diagnose a Migraine Aura without an associated headache; some may experience visual disorders during Migraine and see blind spots which keep on expanding; Flashing lights, Zigzag or Spinning Lines and Straight lines that appear wavy, a tendency which is known as an Aura, which can lasts for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nausea, vomiting, confusions and abdominal pain are some of the common Ocular Migraine symptoms, but some Migrain sufferers also experience Numbness in the fingers, which can spread to the hand and then to the arms; Weakness and dizzy feelings; Tiredness and Sleepiness and difficulty in speaking; some can even suffer from Amnesia, which can last for 1 to 2 hours; they may act normally during these periods but later face difficulty in recalling any activities during those periods of amnesia.

Migraines without headaches need no Treatment; plus it is normally diagnosed too late to consider any Treatment and most of the time the sufferer is unable to understand the reason behind the symptoms; hence 'Prophylaxis Prevention' is the best way to stay away from this condition; avoid things which can Trigger Migraines; as Migraines without headaches consist of Aura or eye related problems, one should take extra care while driving even though you may have been treated completely; try to maintain a proper diet, exercise regularly and go for some stress management techniques.


Types of Known Migraines:

There are two different types of Migraines based on the Aura; Migraines with an Aura have initial symptoms like light flashing in front of the eyes or blind spots; the Migraines that are not preceded with these symptoms of an Aura, are called Migraines without an Aura; in fact, there are different types of Migraines classified according to the causes and Migraine symptoms.

Abdominal Migraines:

Abdominal Migraines are observed in children from 5 to 9 years old and include all the common Migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which are also accompanied by severe abdominal pains near the navel; Children suffering from these abdominal Migraines may, or may not, have an Aura; unfortunately, most of the children that suffer from abdominal Migraines are likely to develop Migraines with, or without, an Aura, when they grow up; abdominal Migraines are treated with regular medications to try and stop 'Prophylaxis Prevention' the Migraines from occurring.

Basilar Migraine:

The basilar Migraine is observed in young adults and is one of the most painful types of Migraines; the symptoms include blurred vision, loss of balance, difficulty in speaking, unconsciousness and a tingling sensation in the body; it also causes severe pain at the back of the head and is accompanied with vertigo; vertigo is a disorder in which there is difficulty in walking, as there is a sensation that the room or surroundings are spinning; this type of Migraine has an Aura; the basilar Migraine is usually observed in people with a family history of Migraine.

Classic Migraine:

The classic Migraine is an headache, the symptoms of which include flashing lights seen in front of the eyes, nausea, weakness, eye pain and a one sided pain; a one-sided pain means that severe pain is experienced only on one side of the head; this type of Migraine has an Aura; common Migraines without an Aura and basilar Migraines are often mistakenly diagnosed as classic Migraines; analgesics are usually used to treat the severe headaches of classic Migraines.

Hormonal Migraines:

Hormonal headaches are experienced by many women as it is related to their sexual hormones and reproductive cycle and these headaches can disrupt daily routines and make a sufferers life miserable while they last; the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels and the use of oral contraceptives can lead to menstrual Migraines and these types of headache can come up suddenly and become unpredictable during menopause; though, it has been found that hormonal Migraines disappear in most of the women during pregnancy; it is worth noting however, that even though there are two types of Migraines associated with hormonal fluctuation, not every hormonal headache is a Migraine headache.

Menstrual Migraines are experienced before, or after, the menstrual periods and start 1 or 2 days before the periods begin, or 1 or 2 days after the periods end and when a Migraine occurs every month on the 2nd day of periods and at the end of menstrual periods, they are termed as ''True Menstrual Migraines'; Premenstrual Migraine start between the 3rd to 7th day before the start of periods and they stop with the start of the menstrual flow.

What are the Symptoms of Hormonal Migraines?

Similar to normal Migraines, the headaches are usually one sided headaches, which are aggravated by bright lights and loud sounds; the sufferer may experience nausea with or without an Aura; hormonal Migraines typically last longer and are more severe than normal Migraines; it is believed that the stomach cramps during the menstrual cycle amplify the pain of hormone Migraines.

Ophthalmoplegic Migraines:

There are different types of ophthalmoplegic Migraines, silent Migraines, Ocular Migraines and ophthalmic Migraines; these types of Migraine can cause severe pain in the eyes, due to this the basilar Migraines can also be classified as an ophthalmoplegic Migraine when there is intense pain in the eyes.

The symptoms of ophthalmoplegic Migraines vary from sufferer to sufferer; although a Visual Disturbance is experienced by all, its effects vary; for instance, one of the most common symptoms is the appearance of small, but expanding blind spots, which is termed as Scotoma; the blind spots can be seen in the central vision and it can be accompanied by flickering lights 'Scintillations' or Zigzag streaks 'Metamorphopsia', which can be seen within the Scotoma or the blind spots; although the blind spots first appear in the region of central vision, it can gradually enlarge and cover the entire field of vision; it is usually painless, but it can be accompanied by some other symptoms like, Double Vision or Diplopia, Headache, Nausea and Vomiting; some people are even known to experience Distorted Vision; these symptoms may go on for hours in some of the sufferers, whilst in others, they may last only for about 15 to 20 minutes; most sufferers experience Tiredness and Fatigue.

Some Ocular Migraines, or silent Migraines, produce no headache and the only way this type of Migraine is discovered is when the sufferer experiencing it observes temporary vision loss or distortion in one eye, it is not a common health disorder and is known to affect only a small percentage of people; there is an occurrence of sudden tightening of blood vessels which reduces, or restricts, the flow of blood to the part of the brain which controls the vision, thus resulting in an Ocular Migraine; the affected vision is temporary in most cases and normal vision returns after some time; though, there are negligible, and very rare, chances of permanent vision loss; those who are considered to be at a risk of getting hit by an Ocular Migraine are women and those who are suffering from diseases such as Lupus, hardening of the arteries; Sickle Cell Disease, Epilepsy, and Depression; it has also been found to prevail in people under 40 and most commonly in those who have a history of Migraines running in the family.

In many cases an Ocular Migraine is referred to as a Migraine with an Aura, which is also responsible for causing visual distortions; the line of difference between the two is the fact that in an Ocular Migraine, only one eye is affected, whilst in a Migraine with an Aura, both eyes are affected; Ocular Migraines do not have many symptoms; however, the symptoms that do occur are prominent enough for a doctor to diagnose the affected sufferer with an Ocular Migraine.

Other than the Complete but temporary Vision Loss in one eye, Ocular Migraine symptoms include Blurring of vision; Partial Vision Loss; Dimming and Scotomas, an isolated area of diminished vision within the visual field, also known as blank spots in the vision; Scintillations, rapid changes in brightness, or a brief spark or flash and Metamorphopsia, a defect of vision in which objects appear to be distorted, usually due to a defect in the retina.

Sinus Headache or Migraine?

Of the various Migraine symptoms, one of the most prominent symptom is a throbbing pain on one, or both sides of the head, and ignorance about this symptom prompts many people into believing that the severe headaches that they experience, typically characterised by pain on both sides of the head, is a sinus headache; due to this many self-misdiagnosed sinus headaches turn out to be Migraines, unfortunately, even GPs often make the same mistake; however, it is still advisable to consult a doctor if you get frequent headaches in order to diagnose whether, or not, you are actually suffering from a type of Migraine.



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