1 in 7 people suffer from migraine and 80% of them feel limited to carry on their daily tasks.
Migraine is a primary headache characterized by recurrent headaches, from moderate to very severe pain. It is very important to understand the disease and its causes in order to prevent and improve as soon as a crisis kicks in.
These headaches can be pulsating or throbbing and are usually common only on one side of the head, accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Migraines can last from 4 hours to 3 days.
The main associated symptoms are:
- Sensitivity to light,
- Sound sensitivity;
- Odor sensitivity;
- Moderate to severe headache;
- Transient visual disturbance;
- Gradual headache, that is, migraine may start as a mild headache that is increasing;
- Nasal congestion (may be mistaken for sinusitis);
- Cervical pain;
Although these are the most common symptoms, you don’t have to feel them all to consider a migraine. As soon as you start to experience some of these symptoms, however slight, you should prepare yourself for a migraine.
There are several changes in the body that can proceed and follow a migraine and can happen hours or even days before.
Thus, we can divide a migraine attack into 4 stages:
Premonitory phase: It can start hours or a day before and brings symptoms such as depression, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, desire for certain foods, change in appetite, thirst, mood changes, stiff neck, increased sensitivity to light and / or sound , constant yawning, irritability, diarrhea and constipation.
Aura phase: The aura includes several neurological symptoms (visual, sensory, language or motor), such as, for example, momentary changes in vision, tingling or numbness in some areas of the body or temporary difficulty in understanding language and / or articulating words . All of these changes are completely reversible and do not imply any neurological or vision damage. These symptoms can last between 5 to 60 minutes and usually occur before the headache starts.
Headache phase: The headache can be of moderate to severe intensity and is usually throbbing or pulsating. It usually occurs on one side of the head, especially at the beginning of the crisis. However, it is possible to feel pain on both sides, or in the whole head. During this phase, migraines can also cause nausea and vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Post-phoromic phase: This is the phase since the migraine ends until the body returns to normal. This phase usually lasts less than 12h.
The causes of a migraine are a combination of environmental and genetic factors. The genetic factors that justify migraine may be polygenic inheritance, which involves the presence of a specific group of genes with different versions and which interact with each other.
Other common causes are:
- Psychological: stress, anxiety, depression and strong emotions;
- Bad sleep habits: sleeping too much or not enough;
- Dehydration: little water intake;
- Hormonal: menstruation or ovulation;
- Diet: skipping meals or being long periods without eating;
- Low sugar level;
- Citric fruits;
- Foods rich in nitrites, such as sausages and cold meats and used as a preservative in some processed foods;
- Alcoholic beverages, tobacco and excessive consumption of caffeine or changes in the pattern of caffeine consumption;
- Medicine: consumption of nitroglycerin, estrogens, analgesics (in excessive amounts) etc;
- Sudden changes in physical activity;
- Fatigue / tiredness;
- Jetlag and changes in routine;
- Headache or cervical pain, from another source;
- Environmental changes: seasonal or weather changes, changes in atmospheric pressure, pollution, excessive smoking;
- Sensory stimuli:
- Visual stress;
- Intense odors;
- Loud and / or constant noise.
Treatments for migraines
Migraine has no cure but can be controlled. There are several treatments that we can do to prevent migraine attacks.
Preventive treatment: When we analyze the main causes of a migraine, we can identify which are part of our daily lives. By changing our routines and avoiding doing or consuming what can cause migraines, we can prevent future crises.
For example, if you drink little water, you can start drinking 2L of water a day. You can also change your sleep habits to a healthier nighttime routine. You can also avoid consuming foods that are more likely to cause migraines such as cheese, citrus or red wine.
Some activities are also quite effective in preventing migraines. Practicing yoga helps to improve posture and correct spinal problems or contractures that may be causing the migraine. Activities that reduce stress, such as meditation, are also very effective in the long run. To find out more about this topic read the article Therapeutic activities to relieve stress here.
Other treatments such as hypnotherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, cervical manipulation, therapeutic massages, can promote well-being and good general health, however the results in the treatment of a migraine are variable. There is still no scientific proof as to the results.
There are also treatments with pills that prevent some migraine attacks. To carry out this treatment, you should consult your doctor, who, analyzing your history, will decide which treatment is most suitable.
Treatment at the beginning of the migraine crisis: It is important to be aware of the symptoms in order to act early and prevent the pain from increasing.
As soon as the symptoms start to appear, you can rest with your eyes closed in a dark and silent place. You should also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Not being able to rest, you can take an analgesic or anti-inflammatory for migraine.
When taking painkillers, you should be careful and never take it for more than ten days a month and at most 3 days in a row.
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