Migraines, their causes and their effects.

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A migraine:

You rise from bed with a headache pounding and throbbing. You can’t stand the light or any sound. You feel like you might vomit. Moving makes it worse. And the pain crawls up the back of your head reaching the top where a creature of some sort seems to be pounding with a sledgehammer. It spreads to your forehead which feels like it is expanding like a balloon filled with helium and your eyes feel like they may pop out of your head at any moment (are those hat pins you feel sticking in them). Then the pain centers for a moment in your temples (did someone shove an ice pick in there) and crawls back to the neck area to begin its travel once more.”

What I have just described is a typical migraine. Are they real? Definitely! Migraine sufferers lose their ability to function during a migraine. They can’t think, they can’t read, they can’t drive, they can’t eat, and they can’t even carry on a conversation. Migraines are so debilitating to a migraine sufferer that they are unable to move or even open their eyes without severe pain. Migraines were once considered to be an excuse or a result of stress or excess worry. Although migraines are still vastly misunderstood, many researches and physicians are beginning to recognize that migraines do exist and that they can be debilitating.

Wikipedia defines migraines as: a chronic neurological disorder characterized by moderate to severe headaches and nausea. The word derives from the Greek word hemikrania meaning pain in the side of the head.

Researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of migraines; however, they do agree on some things:

  • Migraines are a chronic neurological disorder characterized by moderate to severe headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Migraines affect women more than men.
  • Migraines are now recognized by many as a debilitating condition that can be disabling for the sufferer during an acute attack.
  • Migraines can be caused by foods such as fish, chocolate or items with MSG.
  • Migraines can be caused by eating cheese or nuts.
  • Migraines can be caused by rapid changes in barometric pressure.
  • Migraines are caused when a trigger causes vasodilatation (widening of the vessels) in the cranial blood vessels which triggers nerve endings to release neurotransmitters containing 5-HTT which is an important factor in the development of migraines.
  • Migraines are genetic, being passed on from parent to child.
  • Migraines can be caused by the onset of a female’s menstrual cycle.
  • Migraines can be caused by bright light, chemical smells, and/or second-hand smoke.
  • Migraines can be life threatening causing possible stroke and coma as well as aneurysms, vision loss, dental issues and death.
  • Migraines can be triggered by too much sleep or a lack of sleep.
  • Many strokes suffered by persons under the age of 45 are actually caused by migraines (27%).
  • Migraines can last anywhere from hours to weeks.
  • Migraines can have controllable triggers as well as uncontrollable triggers.
  • Migraines can come without warning.
  • Migraine sufferers can suffer from ‘cluster migraines’ which means that they might get one migraine cleared up only to immediately suffer with another one.

Migraines have often been misdiagnosed.

Migraines were once considered to be nothing more than an after effect of alcohol or the result of someone being unable to accept the reality of life (stress, nerves, worry). Although some alcohols can trigger a migraine, it is the effect of the alcohol on the blood flow and not because a person is an alcoholic or has overindulged in alcohol. Migraine sufferers don’t just have a headache, they also suffer from visual issues, nausea, weakness of limbs, breathing issues (on occasion), difficulty focusing and difficulty with major motor skills. When a person suffers from a migraine, it is because the blood vessels in the brain have expanded and are putting pressure on the nerves that surround and infiltrate the brain tissues. When this happens the vessels can swell to the point of rupture, causing death by aneurysm.

Some people have symptoms which warn them that a migraine is on the way. These can be bright sparkles of light in the eyes, bright splashes of light that obliterate vision for a second or two, auras around items that they look at, sudden unexplained nausea or weakness in limbs, and/or pain in brightly lit areas. Migraine sufferers often wear sunglasses inside because even weak light causes pain. Migraine sufferers can’t stand loud noises and will often experience intense ringing in the ears just before a migraine.

Migraines are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed which causes over-medication issues and further health issues. Health care officials and emergency room personnel will often turn migraine sufferers away because they feel they are simply looking to receive drugs. People with migraines are usually considered to be ‘faking’ it because they have a bit of a headache. Migraines sufferers lose jobs due to excess absenteeism. Young migraine sufferers lose their opportunity to graduate because of lost time at school due to migraines. Migraines are not yet listed in the Federal Regulations of “Listing of Impairments” which means it has not yet been identified as an ‘official’ illness. This means that many health insurance carriers will not cover any treatment or medications for migraines.

Do you suffer from migraines?

Migraines are not easy to detect even with such terrible symptoms. Why? Because someone might have an accident which causes injury to their head. They might then have the symptoms of a migraine until their injury heals. But that does not mean that they have migraines. A person might experience symptoms of a migraine due to excess drug or alcohol usage, yet they do not have migraines.

When migraines hit for the first time, you might dismiss it as a result of stress or other cause. A second migraine might cause you to worry, especially if it is worse. If there is a third, seek help from your PCP as soon as possible. Record the symptoms you experienced with each episode, and be sure to let them know the level of pain you experienced. Your doctor may send you to a neurologist to see if you are indeed suffering from migraines. If you are, I urge you to do everything your neurologist suggests to ease the pain and onset of your migraines.

© 2012 Cheryl Simonds

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Comments 10 comments

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Very informative hub. Having suffered from migraines myself from time to time, I know first hand how frustrating it is not to know what causes the onset of one. Thankfully the one time I had to go to the ER for one, they did not turn me away and were able to give me a shot that made it go away within 20 minutes.


cherylone profile image

cherylone 4 years ago from Connecticut Author

You were very lucky, I went to the ER after suffereing for two weeks with very little to eat or drink and the doctor there asked me why I was wasting his time with a headache :(


Tams R profile image

Tams R 4 years ago from Missouri

I get migraines as a result of earthquake sensitivity. Migraines are terrible and most people don't understand until they have one. I've taken shots on and off for years to get rid of them, sometimes to no avail.

I've had my nose and ears bleed from them and hit my head off a wall because it brought some relief believe it or not.

The best relief I ever got was a trip to the ER where the doctor gave me a "migraine cocktail." I'd list the ingredients here but I don't know if I'm allowed with the rules. Nevertheless it was the best thing ever.

Great informative hub.


cherylone profile image

cherylone 4 years ago from Connecticut Author

I am so sorry about your suffering with migraines as I do. Migraines are so very little understood and only those who get them can really understand how to treat them. I have hit my head as well, for some reason it redirects the pressure and allows some of the pain to ease. Sometimes all we can do is lie in a dark quiet room until it goes away. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope your migraines leave you alone for a bit of peace and quiet.


Jennifer Bart profile image

Jennifer Bart 3 years ago from Texas

Thank you so much for writing this article. I suffer from chronic migraine and am unable to work because I have migraines sometimes three or four days out of the week. The pain is unbearable and because I am in recovery from drug addiction I choose not to take narcotic meds for pain. This article was very educational. I want my family to see this as they don't understand what I go through.


cherylone profile image

cherylone 3 years ago from Connecticut Author

Please pass this on. Migraines are so misunderstood. Many feel that a migraine is nothing more than a bad headache and they can't understand why you are unable to function when you have one. Even some (let's face it--MANY) doctors feel that migraines only exist in your head (pun intended). Good luck with your migraines. I hope you find a solution soon.


tattuwurn 3 years ago

Almost 7 years ago I suffered migraines which went on for about 8 weeks -- the longest I have endured with this type of condition. It was summer and the heat and bright lights contributed to the pain, that is, aside from genetic and gender factors (my mom would suffer migraines but not as intense like I had).

Also, I discovered about the harmful effects of foods with too much seasoning. In those weeks I just ate light MSG-free foods, drank water and natural fruit juices. I lost a number of pounds then which left me weaker. I'd always lie in bed, feeling invalid, would always have an icebag handy. I agree, migraines are debilitating... terrible, terrible, just terrible. I'm glad I was out of the hellish migraine and so far I haven't had it since. I vow never to suffer migraines again.


cherylone profile image

cherylone 3 years ago from Connecticut Author

tattuwurn, I am so sorry you suffered so, and I am glad you have not suffered since. Keep up the positive thoughts and behaviors-I hope they work for you. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.


VG 10 months ago

There are headache specialists out there who can really help you. Not that many of them, only 400 or so in US. If you live in s big city like Houston, they have 3. I had migraines for 15 years before I found one. On the first visit he gave me a medication that literally worked in 10 mins. Google "headache specialists" in your area Hopefuly you will be able to find one


cherylone profile image

cherylone 10 months ago from Connecticut Author

VG, how right you are about finding the right specialist close to you that can help. Thanks for the advice.

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