Headaches / Migraines

A migraine is a chronic type of headache that affects over 28 million people in the US, and causes severe pain that lasts from four hours to three days, and occasionally even longer. There are several different types of migraines, that may or may not begin with an aura, which changes the way patients see and may cause muscle weakness or a burning sensation on one side of the body for 15 to 30 minutes before the actual migraine occurs.

Causes

While the exact cause of migraines is unknown, they are believed to be linked to genetic causes or changes in the brain chemicals, most notably a chemical called serotonin, which helps regulate pain in the nervous system. Serotonin levels can be affected by many different things, including blood sugar levels and estrogen levels in women. Certain triggers, such as strong odors, changes in weather and fatigue, may spur a migraine in some people. Patients can often prevent migraines by avoiding the triggers that cause their migraines and by maintaining a healthy and stress-free lifestyle.

Symptoms

Patients with migraine headaches often experience:

  • Severe pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Vision changes
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Lightheadedness
  • Stuffy nose

Symptoms may vary for each patient, but most find that a migraine interferes with their regular activities. The symptoms can last from four hours to three days, and may occur several times a month or less frequently.

Treatment

While there is no cure currently available for migraines, there are several medications available to help relieve the symptoms of a migraine and to prevent them from occurring. Pain-relieving medications, also known as acute or abortive treatment, should be taken at the first sign of symptoms and may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, triptans, anti-nausea medications and opiates. Preventive medications are taken daily to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines, and may include cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and even Botox injections.


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