Migraine headaches are the second most common type of headache behind Tension type headaches and are 2 to 3 times more common in women than men. The first indication of migraine will occur either during the teenage or middle-age years. Migraine headaches can be divided into two types:

Migraine with aura: This migraine will be accompanied by warning symptoms such as impaired vision (strings of light that may be colored or colorless). Other signs may include numbness in hand and arms, bruising around the mouth, inability to speak or remember names, and feeling of weakness in one side of the body

Migraine without aura: This is the most common type of migraine and does not display the symptoms (described above) that some people notice shortly before a migraine starts.

Causes of Migraine

Migraines are a result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, causing the brain to be more sensitive to stimulus.  In many individuals, an electrical wave causes key nerves to release chemicals (CGRP and other substances), which can cause pain in the nerves and an expansion of blood vessels located around the temple area.
If not treated in a timely fashion, the neurological changes in the brain can lead to: more severe and an, increased regularity of attacks,unresponsiveness to painkillers, and pain around the eye and scalp. An EEG can be used to diagnose abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes migraine.

Migraine Symptoms

A migraine is characterized by a severe headache that is located at the sides or frontal lobe. Sufferers will feel throbbing pain that is worsened by physical activity or movement. Other symptoms may include excessive sweating, an inability to focus, the shivers, stomach pain, and abnormal bowel movements.If left untreated, migraines can last anywhere between 4-72 hours.A number of people may find that certain factors will trigger their migraine headaches. These can include: stress, sleep deprivation, poor sleeping patterns, menstruation, smells or smoke, changes in the weather, heat,sunlight, and certain types of food (fermented food, cheese, wine). Once identified these factors should be avoided to prevent triggering a migraine headache.

Self-care for Migraine

  • Identify and avoid factors that trigger migraine headaches
  • Get plenty of rest and have a healthy sleep pattern
  • Exercise regularly without overexerting
  • Try not to smoke as smoking can lead to ischemic stroke
  • Try avoiding caffeinated beverages such as: coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks
  • Individuals looking to take contraceptives should seek medical consultation
  • If symptoms worsen or change it is recommended to seek medical advice

Migraine Treatment

Chronic migraines can be controlled by proper self-care and medication. It is common for symptoms to subside as the patient ages. Treatment for migraines can be divided into two categories:During acute migraines: used only when experiencing the migraine and medication is given immediately after symptoms occur.

  • Pain medication such as paracetemol and non-steroid anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS)
  • Migraine specific medications such as triptans, or medications that contain ergotamine which will be activated in the blood stream directly
  • Medicines for reducing nausea and vomiting

During migraine-free period: Medication is given at times when patient is not experiencing a migraine headache

  • Medication to prevent migraines (taken daily)
  • Seizure prevention medicine such as Topiramate and Valproic acid
  • Flunarizine, Cinnarizine, Verapamil
  • Propanolol, Atenolol, Metoprolol
  • Anti-depressant medication such as Amitriptyline, Nortriptyline, Duloxetine

In the case of migraine headaches that occur during menstruation, patients will be able to take medication such as non-steroid inflammatory medications and Triptane. Medication should be consumed 2-3 days before menstruation commences through to 4-5 days after it stops.