Migraine – Causes, Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

Migraine is a headache which is a result of specific changes within the brain. Migraine can cause severe head pain that is often accompanied by sensitivity by light, noise or any kind of smell. However, not all kinds of headaches can be described as Migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are often accompanied with nausea and light sensitivity. Other sensory warnings may include flashes of light, blind spots and vomiting. The pain caused by Migraine can last for several hours and sometimes even days.

Migraine maybe caused by an abnormal activity causing a temporary alteration in the nerve signals and blood flow in the brain. However, an exact cause for the same is still unknown. There are various factors that contribute or trigger Migraine headaches. Some of these include allergies, fatigue and tiredness, lack of sleep, smoking, any kind of stress, skipping meals, dehydration, alcohol and certain types of medications and drugs.

Other than a headache, other symptoms of Migraine are throbbing and pulsating pain in your head, increasing pain during any activity, pain limited to one side of the head, sensitivity to light and sometimes even temperature change.

Migraines tend to begin during childhood, adolescence or early childhood. Some common risk factors that make you more prone to having Migraine include family history, age, gender and hormonal changes. Study also shows that women are more prone to Migraine than most men.

A neurologist is the specialist to contact if one needs to be diagnosed for Migraine. This diagnosis is based on medical history, symptoms, a physical and neurological examination. Blood test, MRI and CT scan are often the mode of procedure to diagnose.

Migraine causes

A ready brain is genetically inherited in about 20% people who become prone to Migraines. There are multiple factors that can trigger Migraine in susceptible people:
1. Environmental: These include factors such as high temperatures, high intensity light, high humidity levels, changing weather conditions, etc.

2. Lifestyle: Bad diet habits like skipping meals, fasting too often, consuming certain types of cheese, chocolates, foods with Monosodium glutamate, or fermented foods, can cause Migraine.

3. Genetic: Studies have shown that about 90% people suffering from Migraine have a relative who is also a sufferer.

4. Nervous disorder: If you are already suffering from a nervous system disorder or neurological disorder like Epilepsy or Alzheimer, this may be a possible point of trigger for your Migraine.

5. Abnormality in brain: Abnormality of chemicals present in the brain, like serotonin, is a common phenomena with the kind of lifestyle we head now. This can be another reason for triggering a Migraine.

6. Medications: Sometimes the chemical composition of certain medications may not gel well with our body. Oral contraceptives are often the aggravators of Migraine.

7. Sensory stimuli: Migraine can sometimes be triggered with lights which maybe to bright or sounds which may be too loud. Along with this, particular types of smells from perfumes, cigarettes or even paint can trigger off the pain.

Dr Charulata Sankhla, Consultant Neurophysician, says, “Factors like improper sleep, skipping meals, extreme light/sound, stress and consumption of certain foods such as some variety of cheese, chocolate, foods that contain MSG, etc tend to trigger Migraine in susceptible people.”

Neurosurgeon Dr Sunil C Kutty, says, “Causes of Migraine are both vascular and neural influences in a genetically susceptible individual primed by environmental factors. In short the exact cause is still undetermined. Some people who suffer from Migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that start the headaches, but many cannot.”

Migraine symptoms

Migraine is a pulsating/throbbing kind of pain that grows with every physical activity. It builds up slowly and can grow into an intense pain that can affect either or both sides of your brain. Other symptoms of the disease include:

1. Feeling nauseous and queasy: One important symptom along with throbbing pain in your head is feeling nauseous. If you feel this for more than a day, please consult your doctor.

2. Discomfort in bright lights and loud sounds: Migraine headaches are often triggered by bright light and loud sounds. Hence, if everytime this happens to you followed by a throbbing pain which does not end in a span of four hours, get yourself checked.

3. Stiffness in neck: Since the nerves are connected through our spine, many who suffer from Migraine often experience stiffness in their neck when they get a Migraine headache.

4. Extreme hunger: Migraine headaches get with them extreme hunger even if you have had a meal an hour ago. In a normal headache, hunger is not on our priority list. But if you experience extreme hunger along with your bad headache, chances are it may be Migraine.

5. Confusion/disorientation: A bad headache which results in you being disoriented and confused maybe a Migraine as a Migraine headache tends to deal with our thinking ability and ends up ruining it.

6. Feeling low and sad: Experiencing extreme emotions that may be fiddle with our mood are an important symptom of Migraine. If you encounter this with a headache, you may have a Migraine.

Migraine prevention

The Migraine headache can last from anytime between four hours to 72 hours. It is episodic and can get as recurrent as occurring every day.

1. The foremost way to prevent Migraine is to identify what triggers it. You can maintain a diary of all the episodes of the headache and this can help you draw a pattern of what triggers it.

2. Botox can help numb the pain area and provide relief. It can be used when other treatments fail to respond.

3. Try to keep your blood sugar levels normal. Have small meals throughout the day and avoid staying hungry for long durations of time.4. Stay hydrated and drink enough water throughout the day as dehydration can trigger Migraine.

5. Get optimum sleep and try maintaining a sleep routine.

6. Inculcate healthy eating habits such as consuming carbohydrate-rich, sumptuous breakfast daily, avoiding fermented foods, etc.