Health Concerns - Migraines
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According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines. There are several types of headaches with over 150 headache categories established. Common headaches include:

Tension headaches (also known as chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches) are the most common type of headaches among adults. These headaches are caused by muscle contractions and can occur over a prolonged period of time. They can cause mild to moderate pain.

Cluster headaches are not very common, but can be the most severe type of headache. The pain with a cluster headache is described as a burning sensation that can be throbbing or constant and is usually located behind one eye or eye region.

Hormonal headaches can occur in women and are associated with changing hormone levels during menstruation or as a component of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Headaches can also occur during the ‘pill free’ week when taking birth control pills and is thought to be associated with an estrogen withdraw effect.

Migraine headaches are not just a headache. Although severe head pain is the most prominent symptom, there are usually other specific symptoms present to help diagnose the headache as a migraine. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as a pounding or throbbing pain. Migraines can be associated with other symptoms such as light and noise sensitivity, nausea or vomiting, or stomach upset with nausea. A migraine begins with constriction followed by dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Chemicals are then released by nearby cells that cause inflammation and discomfort.

The duration of migraine attacks varies. Some last several hours; others last up to 3 days. Some people have several attacks a week, while others experience it far less frequently. The average is one to three attacks per month. Migraine is believed to be a hereditary condition. About 70% of sufferers have other family members with the condition. Migraine is also more prevalent among women than among men. Approximately 75% of sufferers are female.

What characterizes a migraine, and differentiates it from other types of headache, is its specific symptoms. Of course, not all migraine sufferers experience the same symptoms. And different symptoms can occur at different times.

What are Migraine Symptoms?

  1. Pain that is more severe on one side of your head. Migraine sufferers almost always complain of throbbing pain on only one side of the head, usually around the temple. Occasionally, a migraine causes pain all over the head.
  2. Pain that disrupts normal activity. The simple act of moving may be difficult if you have a migraine, and pain may be aggravated or worsen from activity.
  3. You feel sick to your stomach, or feel like vomiting. While nausea and vomiting can be caused by a number of factors, including certain diseases, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, or eating spoiled food, it may also accompany migraines in some sufferers.
  4. Sensitivity. You are unusually bothered by, or especially sensitive to, light or sound. During (and sometimes prior to) a migraine attack, many sufferers experience strong, painful reactions to light, loud noises, and certain odors.

These are some of the common symptoms often associated with migraine. It is important to realize that everyone’s migraine is different. You may only have some of the symptoms listed above, or you may have them all. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your physician. There are treatment programs available that may help you.Some individuals also experience warning signals or an aura prior to the onset of symptoms.

Only about 15% of all migraine sufferers experience aura -- visual, auditory, or other sensory or physical occurrences that indicate a migraine is on its way. These signals occur shortly before the migraine pain starts.

Some types of aura:

  1. Visual disturbances such as flashing lights, blurred vision or zigzag lines.
  2. Numbness
  3. Hallucinations
  4. Loss of speech

How Are Migraine Headaches Treated?
The proper treatment of migraines will depend on several factors. Proper evaluation and management by your doctor is crucial. Once migraine headaches are diagnosed, treatment may include many modalities. These include education, stress management, biofeedback and medications. The treatment prescribed for you should be tailored to meet your specific needs.

Medications used in the treatment of migraine headaches can be grouped into three different categories.

Symptom relief is aimed at reducing or eliminating pain and nausea associated with migraines. Over the counter examples include Tylenol, Ibuprofen and Excedrin Mirgraine. Prescription products for nausea include Phenergan and Compazine.

Abortive therapies are meant to stop the migraine from flourishing after the first symptom of a migraine has occurred. Examples of these prescription medications include Midrin, Imitrex, Zomig and Amerge.

Lastly, preventative therapies are medications taken daily to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines from occurring. A wide variety of prescription medications can be used as a preventative therapy based upon the individual and physician preference.

Each type of medication is most effective when used in combination with other medical recommendations, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise, and relaxation therapy.

The information provided by MenopauseRx, Inc. is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health-care provider. Please consult your health-care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.