Causes, Symptoms & Prevention
Causes, Symptoms & Prevention
Have you ever experienced a migraine? If you answered yes, you’d know it’s unlike any headache you’ve ever had. Some have likened it to a battlefield, where your brain is being torn apart by bullets. It’s not pretty.
When you’re in the throes of a migraine, light, and noise are physically painful. All you’ll want to do is lie incredibly still in a pitch-black room with a bucket nearby, just in case you need to be sick (a common side effect). That lovely feather pillow will feel like a boulder, hard, and uncomfortable. And now and then, you might need to stagger to the bathroom to relieve yourself.
Basically, migraines hurt. And if you don’t have the right medication on hand, you’re going to feel sorry for yourself a lot longer than necessary.
So let’s unpack exactly what a migraine is, what causes it, how to treat it, and how to identify the signs of an oncoming attack. Getting medication into you early can mean the difference between a brief but bearable migraine, and a full-blown attack. Let’s dive in.
We want to give you the facts, but if you’d prefer to jump ahead, use the quick links below
- What is a migraine headache?
- What causes a migraine?
- What triggers a migraine?
- What are the symptoms of a migraine?
- How do you treat a migraine?
- Are migraines preventable?
- When should you see a doctor?
- Feeling fatigued or experiencing dizziness.
- Needing to pee more often.
- Feeling irritable or moody.
- Blurred vision, wavy or jagged white lines across your vision, or blank spots.
- Loss of feeling in your fingers, toes, or arm.
- Tingling sensation a bit like pins and needles in your face.
- Language difficulties, so you might lose concentration, struggle to follow conversations, express yourself, etc.
- Loss of colour in your face (going very pale).
- Tension in your neck.
- A mild headache that rapidly builds in intensity. It generally starts above the eye before moving. The pain can focus on one side of your head, in the front or all over, and it can shift during an attack.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Sensitivity to sound (noise), light, and smell.
- Alternating between hot and cold (shivers in response to pain).
- Light sensitivity.
- Your head will be sore to touch (it can hurt to brush your hair).
- Sluggish and tired, you’ll probably want to sleep quite a bit.
- You won’t feel well.
- Pain in your head when you lean over or stand up quickly.
If you suspect you that you regularly suffer from migraines, please set up a consultation with your doctor. These intense headaches are treatable and preventable. They’re not pleasant to go through, so instead of suffering in silence, be proactive. Talk to us about managing your migraines. With some of Namibia’s finest medical practitioners, we’re here to help you.
What is a migraine headache?
A migraine is an intensely painful throbbing or pulsing sensation that usually occurs on one side of your head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and extreme sensitivity to sound and light. It can last anywhere from a couple of hours up to a few days.
The onset of a migraine is rapid, but there are warning signs before an attack for a lucky few. You might notice numbness in your fingers or down your arm, or experience a tingling sensation in your face. Your vision could blur, or you’ll start seeing white lines, blind spots, or a haze. These symptoms are known as an aura.
The quicker you can medicate correctly, the better. Acting swiftly can prevent a full-blown attack or at least reduce the pain you’d typically experience.
More importantly, knowing what triggers your migraines and getting the right medication can prevent future attacks.
What causes a migraine?
Many things to be honest, but typically, it’s your genetics and reaction to certain environmental factors that can bring on a migraine headache.
But it does run in families. About four out of five people who suffer from migraines have at least one other family member that does as well. If a parent has struggled with migraines, then their child or children have a 50 percent chance of experiencing an attack.
Notably, migraine headaches affect women three times more than men. Typically, they can occur anywhere from 10 years of age to 40 years old.
Let’s take a closer look at what physically occurs in the brain during a migraine attack.
At the start, hyperactive nerve cells emit signals causing changes in the brainstem to trigger the trigeminal nerve—a pain pathway that delivers sensation to your face and head. Activating this nerve results in a chemical reaction. Serotonin and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGPR) are released, causing blood vessels to swell in the lining of your brain. Neurotransmitters are released, causing inflammation and pain.
So now that you understand what causes a migraine, you’ll want to know what triggers to look out for and avoid.
What triggers a migraine?
It can differ from one person to the next, but these common triggers tend to bring on a migraine:
1. Stressful or emotional situations
Stressful or emotional situations can be a catalyst for a migraine. During extreme stress, the brain releases chemicals that cause changes in the blood vessels, which can lead to a migraine attack.
2.Intense physical exertion
Intense physical exertion such as exercise or sex can bring on a migraine.
For some women, your period, pregnancy, and menopause can trigger a migraine. Some young girls can develop migraines each month up to a year before they begin to menstruate.
A lack of sleep can also cause a migraine.
5. Sleep disruption
For some oversleeping, getting too little sleep and jet lag can trigger a migraine.
Certain foods can contribute to migraine attacks. Up to 30 percent of migraines may be caused by eating aged cheese, foods high in MSG, and drinking alcohol. Missing meals might also lead to a migraine attack.
7. Too much caffeine
Drinking too much coffee can cause a migraine, but then, trying to cut down can also bring one on.
8. Climate Change
Weather changes such as a storm, strong winds, a change in barometric pressure or altitude, can trigger a migraine.
Oral contraceptives and certain other medications can bring on a migraine.
10. Light Exposure
Bright lights, computer screens, and intense sunlight can cause a migraine.
11. Sensory stimuli
Sensory stimuli such as loud noises and strong smoke can also trigger a migraine.
Right, so let’s examine the symptoms of a migraine.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
Each person is unique, so what you experience can be different from another migraine sufferer. What we do know is that most people
experience a combination of symptoms listed below. M/
To help you, we’ve broken up the symptoms according to the different phases of a migraine. There are four to be exact.M/
Prodromal phase: Usually occurs hours or even a day before an attack
Aura phase: Consider this your warning sign. It usually occurs 15 minutes to one hour before an attack
Migraine phase: The headache begins leading to severe pain or throbbing in your brain.
Postdrome phase: The migraine has stopped
Please be aware that the postdrome phase can last for up to a day after a migraine attack. Your brain has been battered and bruised, so don’t rush your recovery. If you need to take time off work, ask your doctor for a sick note.
You can contact any of our doctors at Welwitschia Hospital on (+264) 64 218 911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. But more importantly, we want to help you manage your migraines. So let’s look at a treatment plan.
How do you treat a migraine?
The best treatment for a migraine is a combination of medication and rest. Ibuprofen and other medicines that help to reduce swelling or lower blood pressure (beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers) are ideal, especially if you suffer from migraines with an aura.
Like with any headache, you’ll want to take your medication as soon as possible. And if you struggle with vomiting, you might want to add nausea medicine such as Valoid tablets or suppositories.
But if you feel a migraine building, you’ll want to put yourself to bed, ideally in a dark, quiet room. And if you don’t have block-out curtains, we suggest you invest in some.
Drink plenty of water and keep a cold compress or face cloth on your forehead or neck.
Switch your phone off. You won’t be tempted to check it.
If you have children, ask your husband, friend, or neighbour to keep them away. While your kids mean well, they tend to be loud and bashful, and this can heighten your pain.
A good night’s rest can do wonders for you, but you won’t be rearing to go the next day. It sometimes takes a day to recover from the effects of a migraine. You’ll experience light sensitivity, and your head will feel bruised. Take it easy. You’ve been through a lot.
Are migraines preventable?
Absolutely, you can prevent migraines from occurring or at least reduce their regularity. But it requires a lifestyle change and being aware of what triggers your attacks.
We recommend these seven top tips:
- Start a headache diary where you note down what you did, ate, what the weather was like, and how you felt on a day when you experienced a migraine. You’ll begin to notice a pattern, which will help you to prevent future migraine attacks.
- If you know that intensely bright light or white flashing lights cause your migraines, wear polarised sunglasses. Reduce the brightness of your computer, television, and smartphone screens or the time you spend looking at them
- If stressful situations or environments trigger your migraines, find a quiet spot where you can relax and focus on your breathing. You want to be calm, so meditation, yoga, and Pilates are worth investing your time and energy.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking loads of water may help to prevent a migraine.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep consistently.
- Exercise regularly. Much like stress, tension can bring on an attack, which is why exercise is so important. Swimming, running, walking, and cycling can help reduce pressure and stave off a migraine attack.
- Eat regular meals.
When should you see a doctor?
Migraines are not pleasant, so if you identified with many of the symptoms listed in this article, arrange an appointment with a doctor. Lifestyle changes and learning to recognise the warning signs of an oncoming attack can help you to manage how often you get migraines.
The right medication can also help to reduce the severity of your migraines or prevent them entirely. Remember, the quicker you can get medication into your system, the faster your recovery.
Do you think you need a consult? Find a local GP in Walvis Bay here.
- Header Image by wayhomestudio via freepik.com