A migraine headache can cause intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down. Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms (aura) such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arms and legs.
Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include:
- Allergies and allergic reactions.
- Bright lights, loud noises, flickering lights, smoky rooms, temperature changes, strong smells and certain odours of perfumes.
- Physical or emotional stress, tension, anxiety, depression and excitement.
- Physical triggers such as tiredness, jet lag and exercise.
- Smoking or exposure to smoke.
- Skipping meals or fasting, causing low blood sugar.
- Hormonal triggers such as menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills and menopause.
Symptoms can occur a while before the headache, immediately before the headache, during the headache, and after the headache. Although not all migraines are the same, typical symptoms include:
- Moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head during an attack, but can occur on either side of the head.
- The pain is usually a severe, throbbing pulsing pain.
- Increasing pain during physical activity.
- Inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound, relieved by lying quietly in a darkened room.
Sensory warning symptoms include:
- Confusing thoughts or experiences
- Zigzag lines in the visual field
- Blind spots or blank patches in the vision
- Pins and needles in arms and legs
- Difficulty speaking
- Unpleasant smells.
There is currently no cure for migraine, so treatment is aimed at preventing a full blown attack, and alleviating symptoms if they come. Lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, reducing stress, drinking plenty of water, avoiding certain foods, and regular physical exercise could help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
Migraine treatment focuses on avoiding triggers, controlling symptoms and taking medications.
However the use of analgesia (over the counter medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen) are often the first abortive therapies to eliminate the headache.