Migraines: When a headache attacks
More than just a headache
Debilitating headaches can really ruin a person’s day and lead to time spent in bed or yes, even throwing up. Persons suffering from migraines have a difficult time performing daily tasks, which means missed time at work, missed workouts, missed social outings, and missed time spent with loved ones. Some have found this head throbbing pain to be so unbearable they have opted to undergo scientific studies to get to the bottom of the cause. This terrible condition can feel isolating, hopeless, and there’s a looming fear when the next headache will hit.
By definition, “A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It's often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling. Warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434) . Imagine being bed ridden for a couple days by such intense pain.
There are actually 4 stages of a migraine and different people either experience some or all of them. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434)
Prodome: you feel changes to your body that serve as a warming system a migraine may be approaching. These might include stiff neck, mood changes, thirst, constipation, and/or food cravings
Aura: your senses seem “off” including vision, touch, and hearing
Attack: the actual pain, throbbing, nausea, that can last up to 72 hours during the migraine
Post-drome: total exhaustion after the attack
Causes vary among individuals and can be the result of genetics. Here are the most common causes (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434):
Hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen can trigger headaches, especially in women. Headaches typically occur immediately before or during a woman’s menstrual cycle, when the body is experiencing a major drop in estrogen.
Foods. Cheese, salty foods and processed foods can be migraine triggers. Skipping meals or fasting can also cause attacks.
Food additives. The sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), can trigger migraines.
Drinks. Alcohol, specifically wine, and very caffeinated drinks can trigger migraines.
Stress. Stress is a major cause.
Sensory stimuli. Bright lights and sun glare can cause migraines. Loud sounds are a culprit. Strong smells like paint, perfume, cologne, or smoke can bring on migraines.
Changes in wake-sleep pattern. Missing sleep or getting too much sleep can trigger migraines. This includes jet lag.
Physical factors. Intense physical activity and/or sexual activity can be at blame.
Changes in the environment. A change of weather can cause a migraine.
Medications. Oral contraceptives and vasodilators may cause a migraine.
What we can do
Migraines are not on our team. But we learn to overcome and know that the show must go on, which means we need to take care of ourselves, seek treatment and help when needed, and try to avoid situations that can trigger migraines. The community of sufferers is quite large, so one must keep hope there’s a medical solution to this phenomenon very soon.