A migraine is a chronic headache that can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Typically, more common in women than men, migraine headaches generally begin anywhere between childhood and early adulthood. Migraines cause severe pulsating pain often accompanied by nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine headaches are generally unilateral in that they only affect one half of the head, though some may experience pain on both sides. Out of those who suffer from migraines, approximately a third experience auras, or unusual sensory perceptions, that signify the onset of a migraine. These auras may include such symptoms as flashes of light, tingling in the limbs, or blind spots within the field of vision. While medications and lifestyle changes can alleviate the frequency or severity of migraines, no definite cure has been available. However, surgery for migraine headaches has been found to significantly affect, and even completely rid, the migraine sufferer of this debilitating neurological syndrome.
How Migraines Affect Your Life
Migraines have a serious impact upon the daily lives of those who suffer from them. The severity of migraine headaches often will lead the sufferer to seek isolation for the duration of the episode. This can have major effects upon the personal, social and professional life of the migraine sufferer. Other effects may include a loss of appetite, depression, euphoria, diarrhea and constipation. In more severe cases, migraine headaches can cause difficulty in speech and language patterns, weakness in the limbs, and an overall state of confusion. Physical activity of any kind is almost unbearable and the migraine sufferer often must retreat from the outside world to a quiet and dark area for the duration of the migraine.
Risk Factors and Triggers for Migraine Headaches
While anyone is capable of developing migraines, there are a number of risk factors contributing to the onset of these headaches. These include family history, gender, age, and hormonal changes such as occur during pregnancy or a woman’s menstrual cycle. Additionally, the following factors are capable of triggering a migraine headache:
♦ Food and Drink—Certain foods and drinks seem to trigger the onset of migraines. These include alcohol, chocolate, aged cheeses, excessive caffeine, aspartame, salty foods, processed foods, and monosodium glutamate. Fasting and skipping meals can also trigger a migraine.
♦ Sensory Stimuli—Bright lights or the glare from the sun are also capable of producing migraine headaches. Loud sounds and unusually strong or unpleasant odors are also culprits. These smells may include cigarette smoke, paint thinner, or strong perfume.
♦ Stress—Stress in either the home or at work can be a large instigator of migraines.
♦ Sleep Patterns—A change in sleeping patterns, too much sleep, jet lag and sleep deprivation can cause the beginnings of a migraine attack.
♦ Medications—Certain medications may trigger a migraine.
♦ Physical Activity—Extreme physical exertion can bring about migraines.
♦ Environment—Change in environment, such as climate changes and weather are capable of prompting a migraine headache.