What is Migraine?

Migraine, the second most incapacitating disease in the world, is a complex neurological condition that is often poorly understood. It requires crisis treatment to stop each episode, as well as preventive treatment (prophylaxis). Currently, the world depends on non-specific drugs such as antiepileptics, beta-blockers and antidepressants. Though the pathology of migraine remains mysterious, there is a real expectation on the part of patients for new disease-modifying treatments that has fewer side-effects and, if possible, a more natural approach.

What is the difference between Migraine & Headache?

Migraine and headache are two terms often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different phenomena.

A generic term for any pain or discomfort experienced in the head or neck region. It can have many causes, such as stress, muscle tension, dehydration or vision problems. The pain is often described as a constant vice or pressure and can vary in intensity. Most headaches are temporary and can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics.

A specific type of headache, often characterized by pulsating, intense, unilateral pain. The exact cause is unknown, but is often linked to genetic and environmental factors. It may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Some people may also experience an “aura” before the onset of the migraine. Migraine management may require specific medications and a more complex treatment approach, often customized for each patient.

In summary, while headache is a general term for any pain in the head, migraine is a specific and often more severe type of headache, with unique symptoms and treatments. Migraine is considered a chronic neurological condition, often requiring more specialized medical management.

What are the conditions that lead to Migraine?

While its exact cause is not fully understood, various triggers and conditions have been identified that might contribute to the development or exacerbation of migraines. These include:

A family history of migraines increases the likelihood of developing them.

Hormonal Changes
Fluctuations in hormone levels, especially in women, can trigger migraines.

High levels of stress can lead to migraines, whether from work, family, or other personal situations.

Diet and Nutrition
Certain foods and additives, such as chocolate, cheese, caffeine, and MSG, can trigger migraines in some individuals.

Lack of Sleep
Inconsistent sleep patterns or inadequate rest can lead to migraines.

Environmental Factors
Bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells may trigger migraines.

Weather Changes
Some people find that changes in weather or barometric pressure can trigger migraines.

Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
Both excessive alcohol and caffeine can contribute to migraines.

Certain medications, including birth control pills and vasodilators, may exacerbate migraines.

Chronic Fatigue
Ongoing fatigue and overexertion can be contributing factors.

Other Health Conditions
Diseases such as depression, anxiety, epilepsy, stroke, and hypertension may increase the likelihood of migraines.

Sensory Stimuli
Overstimulation of the senses, such as prolonged exposure to screens, may lead to migraines.

Physical Triggers
Intense physical exertion, including sexual activity, may provoke migraines.

Unhealthy Habits
Smoking and high consumption of unhealthy foods may contribute to the development of migraines.

Menstrual Cycle Fluctuations
In women, migraines can be related to their menstrual cycle.

Lack of sufficient hydration is another potential trigger.

Altitude Changes
Some individuals report migraines at high altitudes.

Chronic Conditions
Diseases such as fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be linked to migraines.

Mental Health
Emotional disturbances, anxiety, or depression can lead to migraines.

Occupational Factors
Working in high-stress or physically demanding jobs may increase the risk.

These triggers vary greatly among individuals, and some may experience migraines with no identifiable triggers. Managing and identifying these factors may help in preventive care, but it often requires a personalized approach under the guidance of healthcare professionals.

Other lifestyle related migraine conditions:

Other common triggers include:

  • Weather, including temperature changes, extreme heat, extreme cold, high humidity, dry or dusty conditions, barometric pressure changes, wind, and storms
  • Smells from food, perfume, paint, bleach, and chemicals
  • Loud sounds
  • Air pollution and smoke from cigarettes, cigars, exhaust fumes, and fires
  • Bright or glaring light, fluorescent lights, flashing lights, and computer screens
  • High altitude
  • Travel, including flying, jet lag, or motion
  • Seeing patterns, including stripes, checkerboards, or zigzag lines
Migraine instances in males

While the physical symptoms of migraine are generally the same between men and women, they often have different experiences. While women are far more likely to experience migraine resulting from hormone level changes, men are more likely to experience it from other physical and lifestyle triggers. Men are also far less likely to report their migraine condition and seek treatment.

Migraine instances in females

Hormonal changes in women
Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women. Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives, also can worsen migraines. Some women, however, find that their migraines occur less often when taking these medications.

Hormonal changes can trigger a menstrual migraine headache, which can occur a few days before a period, and during the first 1 to 2 days.

Migraine & Headache in children

Migraine is not just an adult ailment; it also affects children and adolescents. Though often underrecognized, migraines in children can be as debilitating and complex as they are in adults.

Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of pediatric migraine can vary widely and might include a throbbing or pulsating headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound. Sometimes the symptoms are less typical in children and may be shorter in duration. Diagnosing migraine in children can be challenging, as they might have difficulty in describing their symptoms. Comprehensive evaluation, including a detailed medical history and physical examination, is vital for an accurate diagnosis.

Triggers and Causes
Like adults, children with migraines may have identifiable triggers. These might include stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, weather changes, or sensory overstimulation. However, the exact cause of migraines in children, like in adults, remains elusive and seems to be a mix of genetic and environmental factors.

Treatment and Management
Treatment of migraines in children requires a tailored approach. It often includes a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications. Medications might include over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription drugs, depending on the severity and frequency of the migraines. Lifestyle modifications are equally essential. These can include regular sleep patterns, healthy eating habits, hydration, and learning to recognize and avoid individual triggers. Some children benefit from relaxation techniques such as biofeedback or cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Impact on Daily Life
Migraines can significantly affect a child’s daily life, impairing their ability to attend school, participate in extracurricular activities, or even socialize with friends. The psychological impact of chronic pain should not be underestimated, and support from family, medical professionals, and teachers is crucial.

Understanding and recognizing migraines in children is the first step towards proper management and treatment. A combination of medical intervention, lifestyle modifications, and emotional support can help minimize the impact of this challenging condition. Regular consultations with healthcare professionals specializing in pediatric headache disorders are often necessary to provide optimal care and treatment. The focus should always be on improving the child’s overall quality of life and helping them thrive despite the challenges posed by migraines.

Migraine symptoms and early detection

Usually occurring on one side of the head, the pain can be throbbing or pulsating and may range from moderate to severe in intensity.

Some adults experience visual or sensory disturbances known as “aura” before the headache. This might include flashing lights, blind spots, or tingling sensations.

Nausea and Vomiting
These symptoms often accompany a migraine attack.

Sensitivity to Light, Sound, or Smell
Many people with migraines seek a dark and quiet space during an attack due to heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli.

Changes in Mood
Irritability or depression can precede a migraine in some individuals.

Migraine attacks in adults can last from a few hours to several days.

Other Associated Symptoms
Dizziness, visual disturbances, and difficulty speaking can also occur.

Diagnosis of Migraine

Medical History
A doctor will review the patient’s personal and family medical history to understand any predisposing factors.

Symptom Description
Detailed questioning about the symptoms, including their frequency, duration, intensity, and associated factors, is vital for a correct diagnosis.

Physical and Neurological Examination
This helps rule out other medical conditions that might be causing the headaches.

Headache Diary
Patients may be asked to keep a diary of their headaches, noting potential triggers, the nature of the pain, timing, and accompanying symptoms.

Additional Testing
In some cases, imaging studies like MRI or CT scans might be conducted to rule out other underlying medical conditions.

Migraine-Specific Criteria
Doctors may use specific diagnostic criteria, such as the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD), to classify and diagnose the type of migraine.

The diagnosis of migraine in adults is often based on a combination of the clinical history, symptoms, physical examination, and sometimes additional testing. Understanding the precise nature of the migraine helps in tailoring the appropriate treatment and management plan for the individual, aiming for better control and reduction of migraine episodes.

Methods and things to do for those having frequent headaches & Migraine?

Adopting lifestyle changes may also help prevent some types of headaches and migraines. These include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Making dietary changes to avoid trigger foods
  • Improving sleep habits
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, like yoga and meditation

The diagnosis of migraine in adults is often based on a combination of the clinical history, symptoms, physical examination, and sometimes additional testing. Understanding the precise nature of the migraine helps in tailoring the appropriate treatment and management plan for the individual, aiming for better control and reduction of migraine episodes.