Migraine

Migraine

Overview

Migraines are strong headaches, usually accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light. They occur in stages referred to as Prodrome, Aura, the Attack, and Postdrome. The length of each phase and symptoms experienced differ according to the patient. Having a family history of migraines is a strong risk factor for developing the disease. Migraines can occur at any age. The right medication with supportive therapies and lifestyle changes can help manage the condition.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of migraines differ in each phase. During the Prodrome, one or two days before the Attack, the patient may experience constipation, mood swings, increased thirst and frequent urination. Aura refers to the visual distortions that the patient experiences. For some patients, the aura overlaps with the attack. The patient may experience vision loss, see shapes, forms or shadows that don’t exist, have difficulty speaking, and have muscle weakness or pins and needles sensations. The Migraine Attack usually lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. It is characterised by a persistent throbbing pain, coupled with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. After the Attack is the Postdrome. During this phase, the patient may feel severely drained and exhausted from the migraine. Movement may cause the headache to return.

Causes

Although the exact cause of migraines is not identified, there appear to be strong links with family history and environmental factors. Each patient may have a set of triggers that appear related to the migraine. Identifying and avoiding these triggers could help reduce, if not avoid, the frequency of the episodes.

Risk factors

A family history of migraines is a strong risk factor for developing the conditions. Women are also 3 times more likely to develop migraines than men.

Complications

Possible complication of migraines may be caused due to excessive medication use. Patients with very severe pain are at risk of headaches resulting from over medication, which then require more painkillers for treatment. This results in a vicious cycle of medication-overuse.

Diagnosis

Migraines are diagnosed by a neurologist, on the basis of the patient medical history and a physical and neurological exam. The doctor may also require a CT or MRI scan to rule out other causes for the patient’s symptoms.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve the patient’s symptoms and reduce the frequency of the migraines. Patients are usually prescribed a combination of painkillers to relieve symptoms and preventative medication to reduce the frequency of attacks. Preventative medication may include anti-seizure medication, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications or Botox injections. Non-traditional therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback and cognitive behavioural therapy have also proven to be useful in the treatment of migraines.

Prevention

As the exact cause of migraines is still unknown, the condition cannot be prevented.

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