What is a Migraine?
A migraine is a severe headache that is usually accompanied by various symptoms. A migraine differs from a headache, in that the pain is more severe and generally occurs on just one side of the head. A headache tends to be milder to moderate pain and occurs on both sides of the head. Some migraines can be so intense; it can cause the sufferer to seek emergency care.Common Symptoms of a Migraine
Migraines are generally divided into two categories: a migraine without sensation and migraine with sensation, or a migraine without aura and migraine with aura. Aura refers to sensations a sufferer may experience, which typically occurs about 10-30 minutes before the onset of a migraine, and can include:
- Heightened sense of taste, touch, or smell
- A loss of mental clarity
- Numbing or tingling in the hands or face
- Distorted vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Decreased hearing
Symptoms may occur one to two days before the onset of a migraine, also known as the prodrome phase. During this time, the sufferer may experience:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive yawning
- Unusual food cravings
- A stiff neck
- A decrease in mood
It is not uncommon for migraines to occur in four stages, which can include aura, prodrome, headache, and postdrome, also known as migraine hangover. This is the time following a migraine when the pain has subsided; however, the sufferer may feel beat up and tired, with a slight inkling of a headache.Causes of a Migraine PainOne of the most common causes of migraines is dietary intake
. Certain foods, such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits, soy foods, nuts, vinegar, aged or fermented cheeses, sweeteners and the food additive MSG, most commonly found in packaged, processed, and restaurant foods, are also known to cause migraine headaches. Some prescription medications, such as blood pressure
medications and antidepressants, are also known to cause migraines. Because migraine sufferers tend to have a more sensitive nervous system, stress and anxiety can also trigger a migraine because it increases excitability in the brain.
Having a family member who suffers from migraines, can also increase your risk of developing migraines. Brain irregularities have also been known to cause migraines. Chemical abnormalities can be another underlying cause of migraines. Various nerve pathways and brain nerves come into play during a migraine. A divergence in the nerve pathway or brain nerves can trigger a migraine.
Hormonal changes have also been known to spur migraines, especially in women. Fluctuating levels of estrogen may trigger headaches, especially before or during the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels plummet drastically. Likewise, it is not uncommon for some women to experience hormone-induced migraines during menopause and pregnancy. Hormone medications, such as hormone replacement drugs and birth control, can also cause or increase migraines.