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Causes of Migraines

Migraines can be defined as a serious headache that is accompanied with a range of symptoms such as visual disturbances, aura, nausea, vomiting and numbness. Women are three times more likely to experience a migraine than men, and it is thought that hormones have a role to play in this.

Pre-menstrual and expectant women are more likely to suffer from migraines due to increased levels of hormones in the blood. In fact, many women will experience a migraine for the first time ever whilst pregnant, with symptoms disappearing altogether once they have delivered.

Migraine Types

Migraines fall into one of two categories, classical or common. A classical migraine is one in which there are visual disturbances and aura for the patient, whereas a common migraine presents itself without visual problems.

Some patients only ever suffer from one type of migraine, whilst others can suffer both types. Stress is usually an indicator in the severity of the attack itself, which can last anything from a few hours to a few days, several times a week.

Stages of a Migraine

There are five definite stages for the onset of a migraine, although it is not necessary that a person will experience all of them. These are:
  1. Pre-headache or prodromal stage – this is a general change in a person's mood and behaviour before a migraine starts and can include aches and pains and a change in appetite. This stage can start days before a migraine.
  2. Aura – about 17% of patients complain about visual disturbances that include flashing lights, blurred vision, blindness and blind spots. These can last anywhere up to an hour.
  3. Headache stage – this is when the actual migraine takes hold and means throbbing and severe pain in one side of the head, often with nausea, vomiting and an aversion to bright lights and noise. The best solution is to lie down in a dark room and sleep it off. This stage can last up to three days.
  4. Resolution stage – this is when the pain subsides and gradually all symptoms fade away. Sleep usually helps to speed up this stage, and some people can even stop having a migraine as soon as they have been sick.
  5. Recovery or postdromal stage – this is when the migraine has gone, but can leave a person feeling drained and exhausted, or even elated in some circumstances.

Triggers for a Migraine

Migraine can be triggered by many things, the most common being food and stress. Other triggers can include the following:
  • lack of sleep
  • skipping meals
  • cheese, chocolate, citrus food and caffeine
  • shock
  • depression
  • poor posture
  • dehydration
  • certain medication
  • flickering screens and flashing lights
  • stuffy atmosphere

Treatment for Migraine

Treatment for migraine means identifying and avoiding the triggers, and then treatment itself in the form of pain killers (such as paracetamol and aspirin) and anti-inflammatory tablets (like ibuprofen and diclofenac).

The key to successful treatment is taking the medicine as soon as the symptoms start – taking it when the pain is severe will have little effect on the migraine. Anti-sickness drugs are often given if you experience nausea and vomiting with your migraine.

One of the most overlooked of all treatments is drinking water. Migraines are made worse by dehydration and consuming copious amounts of water can delay or prevent the onset of a migraine.

Migraines which do not respond to conventional treatments need to be investigated further by a specialist.

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