Migraine Symptoms and Migraine Causes

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About Migraines

Migraine headaches are in a class by themselves because the pain and symptoms of a migraine are different from other types of headaches. Migraines are three times more likely to affect women than men and usually strike adults between the ages of 20 and 50. They become less severe and are less frequent with age. Also, if your parents suffer from migraines you are more likely to suffer from migraines as well.

Common causes of migraines

Your migraine symptoms can be quite different from someone else’s. That’s why it is important to know your triggers and avoid the ones you can to help prevent migraines. Here are some common migraine triggers:

  • Certain foods — specific foods are thought to trigger 30% of migraines, including foods containing tyramine (aged cheese and red wine), nitrites (bacon and processed meats) or monosodium glutamate (MSG, packet soups), chocolate, peanuts, dairy products, caffeine (even caffeine withdrawal), alcohol, and aspartame can trigger a migraine
  • Emotions — stress or anxiety
  • Fatigue — overdoing it and even eyestrain
  • Poor nutrition — not eating regular meals or skipping meals altogether
  • The weather — sudden changes in temperature or high or low pressure areas
  • Hormonal changes — falling estrogen levels during menstruation can lead to menstrual migraines
  • Sound, light and atmosphere — exposure to bright lights, loud noises, strong odours and cigarette smoke
  • Medications – some medications can aggravate migraines

Common symptoms of migraines

The word migraine comes from a Greek word meaning “half a skull” because usually just one side of the head is affected. While the exact cause of migraines is unknown, it likely involves a nerve in the brainstem that causes inflammation of blood vessels in the brain. Migraines can last 4 to 72 hours if not treated. Migraine symptoms include:

  • Intense, throbbing and severe pain on one side of your head — in your temples, forehead or around your eye
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Blurry vision
  • Worsening of head pain with normal daily activities
  • Fatigue and dull head/neck pains once a migraine subsides

 

Some people also experience auras about an hour before a migraine hits. These auras are caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. An increase of blood flow occurs during the actual migraine.

Experiencing an aura can be quite disturbing and may include:

  • Seeing flashing lights, wavy lines or dots
  •  Blind spots or tunnel vision in one or both eyes
  • Tingling (“pins and needles”) sensations or numbness in some parts of the body
  • Trouble speaking
  • Confusion

It is common for people who suffer from severe headaches to believe they are suffering from a migraine. Always check with your doctor to confirm whether you are suffering from migraines or not before undertaking any preventive measures.

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