Migraine is a recurring attack of acute headache, usually one-sided and throbbing, that lasts from 4 to 72 hours. The name comes from “micrania” – a truncated Greek word hemicrania (“half of the head”), which indicates the one-sidedness of the pain. Migraine is a very common disease, not related to race, place of residence or climate.
Women get sick more often than men, in a ratio of 4:1. Migraine attacks are found in adolescence and youth, tend to disappear over the years (in men, as a rule, after 45 years, in women – by the onset of menopause). There are two main types of migraine:
- common migraine, also known as migraine without aura;
- classic migraine, also known as migraine with aura.
In the majority of cases, the aura denotes symptoms that cause visual disturbances. Other symptoms associated with the aura are hearing and other sensory disturbances, confusion, movement and mental disturbances. The aura stage traditionally lasts from 4 to 60 minutes. Classical migraine (i.e. migraine with aura) affects approximately 15% of all patients.
Migraine symptoms are caused by a change in the brain’s blood vessels, but the underlying cause of this change remains unknown. Approximately 70% of patients have a family predisposition to migraine. The following factors also contribute to the occurrence of migraine: stress, nervous and physical overstrain, nutritional factors (cheese, chocolate, nuts, fish), alcohol (most often beer and red wine, champagne), hormonal causes (menstrual cycle, contraceptives), sleep ( deficiency or excess), weather factors (change of weather, change of climatic conditions).
As a rule, migraine is manifested by acute, growing throbbing pain, localized in one half of the skull. Other migraine symptoms:
- high susceptibility to light and sounds;
- general weakness;
- violation of motor functions;
- visual disturbances (flashes of light flashing before the eyes, zigzags, spirals, etc.). This is the so-called aura stage that precedes a migraine attack.
During a migraine attack, lights and sounds can be unbearably annoying, and movement can be painful. Migraine attacks begin suddenly, but in some cases, patients may feel tired, depressed, or have an irresistible craving for sweets.
Since acute headache may be a symptom of other diseases, you should consult a doctor if the pain does not subside within 24 hours and is accompanied by an increase in temperature or the appearance of stiff neck muscles. You should also seek medical attention if your headache is accompanied by unusual symptoms.
Some factors can contribute to the onset of migraines, so they are recommended to be avoided. These factors include the following: stress and depression, malnutrition or hunger, smoking, processed foods (cheese, chocolate, nuts, fish, Chinese food, and bananas), lack or excess sleep, caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and cola), alcohol, especially red wine, taking contraceptives, travel – flights and associated jet lag, climate change and habitual environment, hormonal changes in women (during pregnancy, menstruation or menopause).
Sometimes it is difficult to determine the causes that cause migraines – often this is not one factor, but a combination of them. However, even a detected trigger can cause only some migraine attacks, but not all. In addition, risk factors are individual – what is dangerous for one person is completely safe for another.
To diagnose migraine, the therapist only needs to know about the symptoms and frequency of attacks. They also conduct an examination and prescribe some tests.
Also, the doctor may advise you to keep a diary for 2-3 months to follow the pattern of seizures. If a certain pattern is traced in a migraine, this indicates the action of certain factors.
If you feel a migraine coming on, stop all activities immediately, lie down in a dark room where no street noise is heard, and take a headache pill. If these measures are ineffective, the doctor may prescribe other medicinal products. Medicines are effective if taken at the very beginning of an attack, especially if the headache is accompanied by nausea.
If you have migraines once or twice a week, your doctor will prescribe medication for prevention.
If a migraine is triggered by a particular factor, it is best to avoid that factor in the future.