- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Migraines - Causes, Prevention, Treatment
Migraine, more than just a headache
Migraine is the kind of headache that occurs in a form of sudden attacks of pain and mostly on one side of the head and besides that most suffer from nausea and vomiting.
During an attack of migraine most patients try to avoid sounds and light, because that will make the headache even worse and they are hardly able to function. Characteristic also is that the vision on one side is flickering.
An attack can have a duration from hours until days. Before an attack there are often signs that a migraine is coming. These signs are called the aura and with that people often see black spots, stars, feel a tingling in hands or feet on one side of the body and sometimes they have trouble pronouncing words. A small part of the patients have this aura without a headache; this is called a 'migraine sans migraine' .When a migraine is accompanied by speaking disorders or numbness on one side of the body it’s called a 'migraine accompagnee'.
A migraine is caused by contractions of blood vessels in the brain. Why this is happening is not really clear, but thought is that there is an impairment of neurotransmitters in the brain. Blood vessels start to contract and widen continuously and this causes the banging headache.
Some people start to develop a migraine when they are tense, stressed or by a lack of sleep. Also a sudden change from being busy all the time to relaxing can make a migraine develop. That’s why a lot of patients get a migraine attack when they are going on a vacation after a long period of working hard. Women often have migraines during their period. (Migraines occur two to three times more with women then with men.)Some food products can cause a migraine too. For example red wine (sulfite), cheese, chocolate, glutamine acid (in Chinese food products), but there are more ingredients of food product which could cause attacks.
A migraine is a serious illness. Fortunately it’s treatable. It can be treated in two manners. Directly or preventively. Most patients treat their migraines instantly on the moments they occur. They treat the pain as soon it’s starting. On short term, this is a good treatment but most patients would be better off when they would treat themselves to prevent more migraine attacks. When they would treat the migraines preventively, the attacks could be less intense and much shorter then it would be when they start medications on the moments an attack occurred or the attacks can even stay away. It could make your life a lot easier.
Acute migraine treatment or attack treatment
An acute migraine attack can be treated by different medication you should take as soon as you feel an attack is coming up. Anti vomit medication like domperidon for example. You take this with paracetamol 1000mg or ibuprofen 600 mg or naproxen 500 mg. If this should not work, your doctor could prescribe you Imigran.
Preventive migraine treatment
Although painkillers could take away the pain when you have migraines on a regular basis, it would be better to have no attacks at all. Preventive migraine treatments are meant to prevent attacks. But when is this treatment considerable?
-When you have to go through more than 2 attacks per month.
-When you have attacks which make you not able to function for a few days per month.
-When acute treatment doesn’t work
- When your attacks show some kind of pattern (like with women when they have their period).
Preventive medication often is prescribed for 6 to 12 months. After that you evaluate the treatment and the doctor will Judge if further treatment is necessary.
Migraine attacks can change over time. It could be very useful to keep a diary of the migraine attacks you are having. This way it’s easier to show certain patterns and it will be much easier to find the best treatment for your head aches. This way often more than half of the patients are better off than they were before.
Ask your doctor about this, or the neurologist at your local hospital.