With the busy and stressful lives people lead here in the UAE, we have all experienced headaches at some point in time. Sometimes the headaches are mild and bearable, which is cured by over the counter medications or painkillers. On the other hand, some headaches are moderate to severe and on one side of head associated with irritation of light and sounds, which could be a migraine.
Did you know that migraines are not just simple headaches?
There are numerous types of headaches that are medically identified, and migraine is only one among them, which can severely impair the quality of life. A migraine is a neurological condition in which one experiences episodic headaches mostly on one side of the head (the pain and can be both sided in some patients). The condition can be caused in men, women and even in children, although women are major sufferers of the condition. A migraine attack in an individual is generally accompanied by nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity. A typical migraine attack lasts for a minimum of 4 hours and may continue until 3 days in the severe form.
Unhealthy lifestyle practices including poor eating habits are considered to be important causative factors of the condition. Different people may experience migraines differently as the condition may be triggered by various reasons. There are various mental, emotional and environmental factors that differ in each individual and may include;
- Lack of sufficient sleep
- Strong scents or smells
- Certain food products like chocolates, caffeine or dairy products
- Irregular meals
- Certain medications
A lot of research has been done to determine the cause of migraines. All our daily activities like memory, thinking, motor activity is controlled by chemicals in the brain called Neurotransmitters. Chemical imbalances in the brain that regulate the nervous system play a role in the cause of the condition. An individual’s genetic makeup may make one much more sensitive to triggers of the condition. Hormonal changes in a woman’s body cause some women to experience migraines during the time of their monthly periods.
Each individual may experience different triggers that may also change from time to time. The various triggers are not definitive causes of a migraine but they stimulate the condition. Following features are can help to identify a migraine;
A throbbing headache – The most common symptom of a migraine is severe pain which is pulsating in nature on one side of the head or both the sides
Irritability – Some people may feel low or irritable without any specific reason
Nausea and vomiting – In some cases, people tend to feel nauseous and vomit during a migraine attack
Vertigo – One may feel dizzy or experience lack of vision
Sensitivity to light, sound, and smell – People with migraines often tend to seek shelter in dark rooms and spaces. Exposure to lights, strong smell or loud noises may worsen the condition.
The diagnosis of a headache depends solely on the explanation given to a Doctor by the individual suffering from a headache. Upon experiencing severe headaches lasting for more than 24 hours and experiencing symptoms like seizures, decreased levels of consciousness or loss of consciousness, high fever combined with stiff neck/neck pain, one must consult with a healthcare specialist to find out more serious cause other tha a migraine. Symptoms that worsen over a course of time could be indicative of a severe brain condition.
Do not ignore persistent symptoms of headaches as they could develop into much severe health concerns. While it is true that a migraine cannot be cured, it can be controlled with proper treatment. The proper diagnosis of the condition can help in effective management of the condition. Treatment options for migraines depend on the severity of the condition. In some case, simple lifestyle modifications like getting adequate sleep, reducing stress, consuming healthy food and avoiding certain triggers can help an individual go a long way in making a difference.
In severe cases, along with the lifestyle changes, there are medications available to prevent and treat the condition. These should be taken only upon consultation with a specialist and not over the counter. If a patient with migraine who is not following the lifestyle modifications and or taking the preventive medicines, keeps taking over the counter painkillers, they can develop a condition called medication overuse headache. In this condition, the frequency and severity of headaches worsen day by day due to use of over the counter painkillers. Hence, it is important to make lifestyle modifications and be on preventive medications as per the specialist’s advice.
Aster Speciality Clinic, International City