What is a migraine headache?
What is a migraine headache?
A migraine is an incredibly painful headache that is often prominent on one side of the head, throbbing, recurrent and accompanied by other symptoms. Left untreated migraines can last up to 72 hours – OUCH!
Migraines can be sub classified into various categories, the most common divisor being whether it is with or without aura. Aura can be further classified but is essentially the addition of nervous system symptoms such as disturbances or sensitivity relating to vision, balance, speech, or motor control. While it is important to get all symptoms evaluated by a professional if aura is present for more than one hour it is critical that a doctor examine the case as this could indicate loss of blood supply to an area that may lead to further more serious and permanent damage if not treated early.
Migraines are most common among people between the ages of 15 and 55. Migraines can be separated into four stages, although not everyone experiences all four.
1)Prodrome (pre-migraine warning symptoms show up in this stage)
4)Post-Drome (occurs after the migraine attack and can leave you feeling drained)
Unfortunately, chronic migraines also exist, and are classified as those lasting over 15days/month for over 3 months.
Symptoms vary widely between individuals with the most common symptom being a throbbing pain in the head. Other common symptoms include nausea, blurred vision, vomiting, fatigue, and sensitivity to external stimuli.
Not everyone with migraine will have each symptom.
While there is no specific test to diagnose a migraine it can be concluded based on symptoms and a process of elimination for other health issues that those symptoms could also suggest.
The different types of migraine are also diagnosed based on their specific symptoms, duration, and potential triggers when they are present.
Migraine treatment includes medications for pain control, and in severe recurrent cases preventative medications. When painkillers are used they are most effective early on before the migraine is able to develop beyond the scope of their strength. Over the counter medications that have been used to minimize the migraine pain include, but are not limited to, naproxen, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Preventative medications will depend on your current health state but can include antidepressants, and vitamin B-12 supplements among many others. As always, it is important to speak with your doctor before taking a new medication or dosage.
Often migraines are best managed with preventative measures that typically come down to leading a healthy lifestyle. Practices that reduce stress such as getting regular exercise, enough sleep, a healthy diet, and drinking plenty of water can go a long way in regard to reducing the frequency and severity of symptoms. Additionally, if there are typically triggers leading up to your migraine avoiding situations that present you with the trigger can be incredibly beneficial.
In some cases behavioural therapy, such as LTC (learn to cope) can be employed to help desensitize patients to the migraines. This basically involves gradually exposing yourself to triggers while maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle.
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