Migraine Headache
Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Migraine Headache

Almost everyone will experience a headache. Migraine headaches are one of many types of headaches that can cause extreme pain. The pain occurs due to the depletion of the chemical serotonin, an important neurotransmitter involved in communicating among nerve cells. The role of serotonin in the brain is to regulate the expansion and contraction of the blood vessels. The dilation of these vessels causes the pain.

Symptoms

Migraine headaches can be classified in two ways. It can be without aura or a common migraine. Alternatively, it can be with aura called a classic migraine. Both types share similar symptoms as pain often occurs on one side of the head, close to the eye. When sufferers are exposed to light and/or noise, it will often get worse. Sufferers will experience a severe throbbing sensation. In addition, sufferers often feel nauseous and/or vomit. A migraine can happen at any time of day or night, and lasts between four to 72 hours.

Unlike a common migraine, the classic migraine is accompanied by an aura or visual disturbance. The aura distorts the normal field of vision. For instance, some sufferers perceive a shimmering visual sensation like hot air rising from a fire or stove. Other forms of aura may include numbness and difficulty speaking. Migraines with aura usually precede the pain by less than one hour.

Common causes

The cause of either type of migraine headache is unknown; however, there are many contributing factors. For instance, allergies to certain types of foods, including dairy products, shellfish, red wine, and nuts may trigger this condition. Furthermore, sufferers who are exposed to air pollution may also experience them, or those who smoke or are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. Consuming alcohol, excess stress, tension, insomnia or too much sleep, overexposure to sunlight or glare from fluorescent lights, constipation and dehydration are among other important factors that contribute to triggering a migraine headache.

Risk factors

People born with an inherited predisposition are at risk of suffering from migraine headaches. They will get frequent migraines as the triggers set off their headache mechanisms. Women are also most likely at risk of experiencing migraine headaches due to regular hormonal changes.

Treatment

After consulting a physician to rule out other causes, sufferers can take painkillers to relieve their symptoms. There are several prescription drugs that treat the migraine headache, including antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-seizure medications. Antidepressants help ease the sufferers' tension. Meanwhile, anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the inflammation of the blood vessels. Finally, the anti-seizure medications reduce the frequency of occurrence when taken daily. Sufferers also seek alternative treatments through aromatherapy or using hot and cold compresses.

A migraine headache makes what should be a normal life miserable. Beside treatments to reduce the pain, sufferers need to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Additionally, improving the indoor air quality also helps to prevent migraine headaches. To conclude, sufferers need to eliminate the contributing factors to obtain relief.