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Migraine: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About migraine

Migraine is a serious kind of headache which is defined as severe, throbbing pain in head, scalp and neck. It is a common occurrence which is not only distressing but also long standing.

Migraine: Incidence, age and sex

Migraine is a common human ailment and encountered frequently in the general population. About 1 in every 10 individuals may be affected. It may afflict an individual of any age and gender. But it is more frequent in adolescents and young adults with a markedly higher frequency in women as compared to men.

Signs and symptoms of migraine: Diagnosis

Migraine headache typically affects only one side of head and is characterized by excruciating, pulsating pain which may be associated with nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to bright light and noise. The headache progressively worsens with time and may last for few hours to two days. Some individuals may experience certain warning signs before the onset of headache. This phenomenon is called ‘aura’ and is characterized by visual disturbance like tunnel vision, blurring of vision and pain in both eyes. This kind of migraine which exhibits ‘aura’ is termed as ‘classical migraine’.

The diagnosis of migraine headache in most of the individuals is made by history itself. However in case of doubt, certain investigations like electroencephalogram (EEG), brain imaging or lumbar puncture may be considered to rule out any serious underlying ailment.

Causes and prevention of migraine

Migraine is known to result from abnormal brain activity. Genetic preponderance may also contribute to it. There are certain triggering factors like are bright lights, noise, strong odours, emotional stress, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and food (chocolate, red wine, cheese) which may stimulate an attack of migraine in an susceptible individual. Affected individuals are advised to identify and subsequently avoid the triggering factors.

Migraine: Complications

Migraine is quite a distressing and chronic problem which may affect an individual’s work and personal life. Moreover, migraine is also considered a risk factor for stroke which is a severe disorder affecting the brain.

Migraine: Treatment

The treatment of migraine includes two steps namely preventive therapy and symptomatic therapy. Preventive therapy as the name suggests, helps in preventing future attacks of migraine. Such a therapy recommends identification and avoidance of triggering factors. Certain medications like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or tricyclic anti-depressants may be prescribed on a regular basis to prevent migraine attacks. Symptomatic therapy is needed at the time of migraine attack to provide immediate relief. This therapy recommends head massage or sleeping in a dark room. The medications for instant relief include NSAIDs, ergotamine or sumatriptan. Narcotic drugs which are highly potent, may be needed in resistant and severe cases of migraine. The prognosis or course of migraine generally differs from person to person.