What Causes Migraine And How Can It Be Managed?


Migraine is a type of primary headache, that is a headache which does not have other secondary cause. Migraine is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide predominantly woman more than man. The mechanism of migraine was thought initially to be due to vascular theory in which lack of blood supply to the brain causing the headache.

However, recent studies suggest that it may be due to mainly the effect on the trigeminal nerve and its branches. It is not known what causes migraine in the majority of the patient but some notable cause has been identified in the subset of the population such as genetic factor which has been linked with other condition such as seizure.

What are the symptoms and presentation of migraine?

Migraine is significantly different from other primary headaches like the tension headache in terms of its symptoms and presentation. Migraine headache is typically a one-sided headache but can involve the whole head at a later stage. The pain is so severe and can last from 4 hours to 3 days! Most people with migraine will describe the pain as “pulsating” in nature compared to tension headache that often described as “banding-like” headache.

Many will also experience nausea and vomiting and dislike to sound/light when the attacks begin. In a small number of patients, they will also have the “aura” symptoms which are the abnormal sensation involving their senses.

Triggering or causing factors?

There is a misunderstanding between the triggering factor and causes of migraine among the common people. As stated above, it is not known what causes migraine but there are plenty of triggering factors. A non-migraine person will not have migraine attack when they have the triggering factors as the latter only apply to susceptible people who already have a migraine.

Some common triggering factors are such as foods like chocolate, cheese, caffeine. Lack of or oversleeping also has been associated to trigger a migraine. Since more woman is having migraine than man, the role of oestrogen and progesterone also have been identified to exacerbate a migraine attack.

Treating Migraine

Treating migraine involves prevention or staying away from the triggering factors as well with medications. Conservative method, which is a way of saying the non-medical approach to migraine headache is an essential step for recurrent migraine patients. Besides staying away from the triggering factors, these people will also be advised not to take contraceptive pills, sleep better, drink enough clean water and exercise regularly.

In the event of an acute attack, analgesics such as paracetamol, aspirin and a specific drug for migraine, the Triptans such as sumatriptan can be a great reliever for the headache and reduce the period of pain experienced by these people. However, compared to the former analgesics, the Triptan drug needs a prescription from a doctor and has to be taken just as the symptoms of migraine starts since it is not as effective when the attack already set in.

For chronic migraine patients, they may be prescribed with other medications such as anti-seizure medication, heart-slowing medication or even botulinum toxin. It is important to note here that all these options will be based on try-and-error between the patient and the medications as no one drug can immediately solve chronic migraine problem.

All in all, migraine is a complex and debilitating condition that needs patient education and effective treatment. If you have a question regarding what type of headache you are experiencing, you can get answers by DoctorOnCall.

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