Migraine more than just a headache. Everyone at one point or the other has experienced headaches. Sometimes you call it a mild headache; sometimes you call it a migraine. But did you know that migraines could be more than just a headache?
A professor of neurology at King’s College, London once defined migraines as an inherited tendency to experience headaches as a result of sensory disturbances. Migraines are a result of instabilities in the way people’s brains deal with incoming sensory information and it is that instability that is influenced by changes the body experiences such as exercise, hunger, and sleep.
But what really can we say a migraine is?
The truth is that migraines are a complex condition with a myriad of symptoms. However, the first symptom that many people experience is a very painful headache while others experience symptoms like light sensitivity, sensitivity to smells and sound, blurred vision and even just feeling nauseous and sick. A migraine attack can be really scary and might cause you to have to lie still for many hours at a time.
These symptoms aren’t the same for everyone as they vary from person to person. In fact, some people experience different symptoms at different migraine attacks. For example, a person may experience sensitivity to smell or light and feel nauseous during one attack and at the next attack, the person instead feels painful headache accompanied by blurred vision and feeling sick.
The way the symptoms vary between individuals, so do the frequency and length of attacks. Usually, a migraine attack can last anywhere from 4 hours to 72 hours and you may even be free of symptoms in between attacks – assuming you experience episodic attacks.
Many people underestimate migraine attacks by comparing them to simple bouts of headaches but migraines can have a huge impact on your family, social life and even your work. For example, a friend of mine cannot hang out with the boys on Friday nights at bars or parties because he becomes extremely sensitive to loud sounds and the smell of alcohol which results in a terrible migraine.
If a migraine is more than just a headache, what kinds of migraines are there?
The same way there are different types of headaches; there are also different kinds of migraines. Knowing what kind of migraine you experience will help you to properly manage it, and if it becomes severe, this knowledge will help your doctor to properly diagnose and treat it for you.
The most popular types of migraines have been classified into two categories, the migraine without aura and the migraine with aura.
The migraine with aura refers to the type of migraine that is quite rare and its symptoms include double vision, losing balance and the person might even faint. Another name for this rare migraine is “migraine with brainstem aura.” Sometimes this rare migraine is also defined as “familial hemiplegic migraine,” on account of the paralysis that comes with the symptoms, although it is reversible.
The whole meaning behind the aura is that the person would experience a warning sign of symptom before the actual headache which is accompanied by neurological symptoms and it can happen anywhere from once a year to several times a year.
On the other hand, migraines without aura are those that happen almost immediately after being exposed to a trigger like stress, certain foods, menstruation or even weather changes and it occurs in about 70% to 90% of people with migraines. It can happen from once a year to several times a week.
It’s not every person that experiences a regular migraine, plus most of the time, your experience may be unique to just you.
How can you tell the difference between a headache and an actual migraine?
Trying to distinguish between the two can be difficult because it is possible to experience different types of headaches at varying points of your life and a wide variety of reasons. For example, there are times that you may have a migraine but you also experience some kinds of headache.
So the best way to know if what you are experiencing is more than just a headache, keep a migraine diary where you write down the symptoms you experience as well as how long and how frequent you experience them. If you frequently experience painful and exhausting headaches which are severe and occur on one side of your head, then that is more than just a headache, it is a migraine.
What are the main causes of migraines?
There isn’t any one cause of migraines but studies have shown that most people that experience it are genetically predisposed to it. What this means is that if someone in your family such as one of your parents usually experienced migraines, chances are that you could experience them too.
Outside of that, there are also some things commonly called triggers that can cause migraines as well. Some of these triggers have already been stated earlier but there are still more like lack of food, hormonal changes experienced by women, alcohol, not getting enough or getting too much sleep and various other environmental factors.
How can you treat migraines?
The fact that migraines are complex in nature makes it such that there so many kinds of treatment available and the treatments vary from person to person. This is why you need to be aware of the symptoms peculiar to you and know the kind of migraine that you have.
Once you have been diagnosed with migraines, you should immediately start treating it either with natural remedies or with medications.
If you assume that what you have is just a headache and you overuse pain medications, you are just setting yourself up for rebound headaches which can be even more difficult to treat.
And while the symptoms of migraines can be treated, there is no cure for migraines so if you continue to expose yourself to the triggers; you will continue to experience migraines.