What is a migraine?
A migraine isn’t just a bad headache. It’s an intense, throbbing pain. Some people also get nauseous and sensitive to light and sound. It is thought that a migraine occurs when swollen blood vessels in the brain press on nearby nerves, causing pain. But it’s not clear what causes this to happen.
Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about it 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 arm or leg.
Who gets migraines?
More than 30 million people in the United States have migraines.
Women in their early 20’s are 3x more likely to have migraines than men.
About 50% of migraine sufferers remain undiagnosed.
Migraines are most often seen in adults 25-55 years of age.
Often it’s a combination of triggers that can set off an attack. Common triggers are related to your diet, body, and environment.
-Alcohol (often red wine)
-Caffeine (too much, or withdrawal)
-Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
-Feeling worn down
-Too much or too little sleep (try to get 6-8 hours per night)
-Light (eg, bright, fluorescent, flashing or flickering)
-Odors and pollution (eg, smog, smoke, perfume, chemical odors)
Types of Migraine
Also called migraine without aura, common migraine is the most prevalent type of migraine, and it accounts for about 80% of patients. Fatigue, mood changes, anxiety, and mental fuzziness are among the symptoms frequently experienced.
Also called migraine with aura, classic migraine occurs in about 1/5 of migraine sufferers. Visual or other sensory symptoms called auras most often occur before a headache but can also appear during or after a headache. Most commonly, sufferers see auras that are flashing light, zigzag lines, or blind spots. Auras can also include feelings of numbness or tingling, speaking difficulty, ringing in the ears, smelling a strange odor, or having an odd taste in the mouth.
This type of migraine is related to fluctuating levels in estrogen during a women’s menstrual cycle. Around 60-70% of female migraine sufferers report a relationship between their migraine headaches and menstruation.
Abdominal migraine is an episode of moderate to severe abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting that can last up to 72 hours. It is typically seen in children, especially those with a family history of migraine. Children who suffer from abdominal migraines usually suffer from classic migraine headaches as adults.
Also known as ocular migraine, retinal migraine involves temporary partial or total loss of vision in one eye that can last an hour or less and is not always accompanied by headache.
“Familial Hemiplegic Migraine”
This is a very rare inherited condition caused by one of several chromosomes. In hemiplegic migraine, one side of the body may have some temporary motor paralysis or go numb during a migraine headache.
“Basilar Artery Migraine”
This type of miraine presents itself as a headache, usually in the back of the head, and is associated with an aura that includes dizziness, confusion, problems speaking, hearing changes, and visual disturbances. It is usually related to hormonal changes and most often affects young adults.
This is a rare type of migraine that requires emergency treatment. Patients develop a partial or complete paralysis in nerves required for eye movement.
This is a rare condition characterized by an extremely severe headache that lasts more than 72 hours. Hospitalization is often required to relieve symptoms.
“Transformed or Chronic Migraine”
This is a form of chronic daily headache. Transformed migraine occurs when, over time, a migraine becomes a continuous background headache with, occasionally, severe migraine symptoms. Sometimes called coexisting migraine and tension-type headache, it is challenging to treat.