Cause Of The Migraine Headaches

Cause of the migrane headache and answers to your questions about migraine headaches.

It is estimated that 25 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. If you are a frequent headache suffer, you may have wondered whether your headaches are indeed migraines. How do you differentiate between a common headache and a migraine? Migraine headaches are severe, and sometimes debilitating headaches that are identified by the following symptoms:

1. Your pain is severe, usually located on one side of your head

2. Your pain is described as throbbing, pulsating pain that worsens with normal activity

3. You have nausea or vomiting

4. You have a loss of appetite

5. You become sensitive to light and sound

6. You experience flashing lights in front of your eyes or other vision changes

Migraine pain has been described by sufferers as intense, throbbing, or pounding. The pain may be felt in the forehead/temple area, ear, jaw, or around the eye. Migraines, usually, but not always, start on one side of the head and can eventually spread to the other side.

Migraine attacks can last anywhere from a few hours to days or even weeks. Sufferers can get repeat attacks as often as several times a week or as rarely as once every few years.

What causes migraines?

Though the exact cause is not known, doctors attribute migraines to several factors. Many doctors agree that migraines do seem to be hereditary, running in families. Statistics report that 70% of migraine sufferers have another family member that also suffer with them. A person born with a tendency to have migraines is susceptible to triggers that do not affect other people. Triggers such as stress, environmental/weather changes, bright light or sunlight, and certain foods can set off a migraine attack.

Some of the foods that doctors attribute to causing migraines include nuts, yogurt, chocolate, processed meat (hot dogs, bacon, salami), aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), dairy products. There are many other trigger foods. Strangely, foods that bring on migraine attacks in some sufferers don't affect other sufferers. Every person has their own triggers, whether it be foods or other factors.

How are migraines diagnosed?

If you frequently suffer from intense headaches, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis. While there is no cure for migraines, its symptoms can be controlled. Some of the tests that your doctor may use to diagnosis migraines are:

Physical Exam - A check of your heart, lungs, blood pressure, eyes, head, etc. to ensure that no other ailment is causing your pain. He will also want to get a complete history of your headaches to determine frequency and severity.

Lab tests-While there is no blood test that can prove that you have migraines, lab tests can rule out other possible causes for your headaches.

Diagnostic testing- CAT scans or MRI scans are used to take "pictures" of your brain to rule out any serious ailment such as tumors.

What kind of treatment options are available?

There has been a lot of advancement lately in the treatment of migraine headaches. There are medications to help you live with the pain of an attack, referred to as interventional medications, and ones that help to prevent an attack, called preventive medications.

Interventional types of medication are taken when a headache is in progress, to stop the pain, nausea and other symptoms. Preventive medicines are taken on a daily basis to prevent the likelihood of a headache occurring. There are also a number of alternative treatments that are used, including acupuncture, yoga, hypnosis, diets, and herbs.

What can I do to cope with my symptoms?

If you are experiencing a migraine headache, there are a few things you can do to help yourself cope with the pain.

Lie down in a dark room

Since migraine sufferers experience sensitivity to light, being in a dark room may help. If you don't have room-darkening curtains or blinds, hang a thick blanket over the window to block out all of the sunlight. Lying down also helps since normal migraines are intensified with any kind of activity.

Hold a cold or hot compress on your head

Some migraines sufferers claim that using an ice pack helps to relieve some of the pain, while others claim that a hot compress, such as a hot rag or heating pad, helps to lessen their pain. You may want to experiment with both to see which works best for you.

Applying pressure to your head

Sometimes, relief can be found by gently applying pressure to the part of the head that is in pain.

See your doctor

If over-the-counter medications do not help, see your doctor. There is no reason to suffer when there are so many medications that may help you.

Where can I get more information about migraines?

You can see your doctor for more treatment options and for more information on the type of medications that are available. You may also contact the National Headache Foundation at 1-800-843-2256 and The American Council for Headache Education at 1-800-255-ACHE for more information on headaches and migraines.

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