Diseases & Conditions


MigraineCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Migraine?

Migraine, a debilitating condition is characterized by severe headaches and is more prevalent in females than males. The pulsating headache, caused by migraine is unilateral in nature i.e., it affects only one part of one’s head and lasts anywhere between 4 – 72 hours.

Causes of migraine

Whenever blood vessels of the brain expand and contract improperly a migraine attack can ensue. The process can start at the back one’s brain termed occipital lobe, as blood vessels start to spasm. The resulting reduction in blood flow produces an aura that some persons suffering from migraines experience.

Apart from vascular causes migraines can occur due to neural factors too. A migraine can occur whenever certain nerves located in the lower portion of the brain get irritated, releasing certain chemicals that produces inflammation in blood vessels and irritation in the nerves, resulting in pain.

Medications of migraine

Persons with only mild and occasional migraine that in no way impede their daily activities can take over-the-counter pain relievers. These are effective and safe for short term respite from migraine headaches. These analgesics are NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as acetaminophen. NSAIDs of aspirin and non-aspirin types are useful in treating migraine. The non-aspirin types are ibuprofen like Nuprin, Advil, Medipren etc. and naproxen such as Aleve.

Prevention of migraine

Migraine headaches can be prevented in two ways. One is by avoiding triggers that can cause the condition and other is taking medications of a prophylactic nature. However, these medications are not 100 per cent effective. The best thing one can do under the circumstances is to decrease the frequency of migraine headaches.

Risk factors of migraine

Migraine sufferers run a high risk of stroke. Especially, young migraine patients as well as women resorting to hormonal contraception are at risk.

Symptoms of migraine

Migraine is chronic in nature, characterized by recurrent attacks. There are a host of symptoms connected with migraine. They are…

  • Pounding, throbbing or intense pain involving one of the temples.
  • Migraine is usually unilateral, occurring on any one side of one’s head, but sometimes it can be bilateral also.
  • Typically, unilateral headaches can also change sides.
  • Routine activities like going up the stairs can aggravate a migraine attack
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Sensitivity to sound and light

Certain premonitory symptoms precede most attacks of migraine and they can last for hours/days. These symptoms are…

  • Feeling sleepy very often
  • Irritability,
  • Fatigue,
  • Depression or euphoria,
  • Yawning
  • Cravings for sweet or salty foods.

Treatment of migraine

Biofeedback, relaxation techniques and using ice can help prevent a migraine attack once it is started. If possible, sleep tends to be the finest medicine for migraine. Making changes in lifestyles is important. This involves avoiding certain triggers like smoking, foods rich in tyramine like sharp cheeses, pressed meats and nuts that contains nitrates and wines containing sulphites. Healthy lifestyle, sufficient consumption of fluids, adequate sleep as well as exercise can be useful in the treatment of migraine.

Types of migraine

Generally, migraine headaches are of four types.

  • Complicated migraines are a type of migraine that is accompanied by a process termed neurological dysfunction.
  • Vertebrobasilar migraine is the result of a dysfunction of the lower part of the brain termed brainstem which controls automatic processes like balance and consciousness.
  • Hemiplegic migraine, is characterized by either weakness or paralysis of one portion of the human body.
  • Ocular or retinal migraines is a rare occurrence of blind spots on any one side.