Migraines and Headaches- Causes, Triggers and Remedies

12 Aug
2014
By Amelia Smith

Headache is an unbearable pain usually on one side of the head, which hampers daily activities and may last from hours to days, if left untreated. It has been reported that, an estimated 64–77% people of the world suffer from headaches at some point in their lives. More than 90% of headaches are primary headaches, including migraine and cluster headaches. Primary headaches are regarded as tension headaches and most people with tension headaches have “episodic” headaches that usually come and go.

Cluster headaches are severe headaches that occur on one side of the head, typically around the eye. Eye watering, red eye and nasal congestion are some of the common symptoms of cluster headaches. Moreover, cluster headaches can be treated with triptans and prevented with prednisone and ergotamine.

Detailing migraine:

Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder on one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea and vomiting. People affected with migraines are extreme sensitive to light and sound. An estimated 6% of men and 18% of women get migraines in a given year, and it is also a fact that migraines are more common among women.

Types of migraine headaches:

Migraines and Headaches

There are various types of migraine headaches including ocular migraine and sinus headaches. These are mentioned below:

  • Ocular migraine – Ocular migraine cause temporary vision loss or distortion in one eye, generally followed by a headache. This type of migraine is also known as retinal migraine or ophthalmic migraines. Ocular migraines are more common in women and also people who are under 40 years old, or who have a family history of migraines or other headaches. Blur vision, partial vision loss, blank spots in vision, and flashes of light are some of the common symptoms of ocular migraine. People can prevent ocular migraine by kicking the smoking habit, maintaining high blood pressure, and avoiding stress and exposure to excessive heat.
  • Sinus headache – An estimated 24–31 million cases of sinus occur in the United States annually. Sinus is an air-filled space located in the forehead, cheekbones, and behind the bridge of the nose. The sinus drains through channels in the nose and when it become inflamed, then the channels become blocked that increase the pressure and cause a pain similar to that of a headache. Symptoms of sinus headache are nasal discharge, fever, feeling of fullness in the ears, and facial swelling. People can prevent sinus by drinking more fluids and using a humidifier or salt water nasal spray.

Causes of migraine:

A migraine headache is caused by changes in the brainstem and abnormal brain activity. There are various activities and causes that trigger migraine, but the exact chain of events remains unclear. Most researchers believe that the attack begins in the brain and involves nerve pathways and chemicals. Below are some of the mechanisms that may trigger migraine to happen:

  • Family history – It has been studied in various researches that 90 percent of people with migraines have a family history of migraine attacks.
  • Hormonal changes in women – Fluctuations in estrogen levels may trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Women report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen level.
  • Foods – Foods including aged cheese, salty foods and processed foods may trigger migraines. Moreover, skipping meals or fasting also trigger migraine attacks.
  • Drinks – Beverages which contain a high quantity of caffeine and alcohol may also trigger migraines.
  • Anxiety and stress – Emotional stress is a common trigger of migraine. People can reduce stress by doing relaxation exercises. This type of relaxation may help in eliminating the major cause of migraine.
  • Change in the environment and medications – Changes in weather or barometric pressure and oral contraceptives and vasodilators can cause migraines.

Migraine attacks may be triggered by caffeine withdrawal, changes in sleep patterns, loud noises or bright lights, skipping meals and strong perfumes.

Signs and symptoms of migraine:

Migraine often begins in childhood or early adulthood and causes recurrent severe headache associated with autonomic symptoms. Basically, migraines progress through four stages, including prodrome, aura, headache. These are as mentioned below:

  • Prodrome stage – This stage occurs hours or days before the headache and about 60% of the people with migraines have to face this stage. Symptoms in this stage include altered mood, fatigue, depression or euphoria, craving for certain food, constipation or diarrhoea, and sensitivity to smells or noise.
  • Aura stage – This stage of migraine occurs before or during migraine headaches. Most of the people with migraines experience attacks without aura. Basically, auras are nervous system symptoms that include flashes of light, touching sensations (sensory), movement or speech (verbal) disturbances. Symptoms begin gradually over several minutes and then last for 20 to 60 minutes. These include visual phenomena like shapes, bright spots or flashes of light, pins and needles sensations in arm or leg or less commonly, limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine).
  • Headache stage – The frequency of headaches varies from person to person. People may experience migraines several times a month or much less often. They experience symptoms like pain on one side or both sides of head, sensitivity to light, sound and sometimes smell, nausea and vomiting, or blurred vision.
  • Postdrome – It has been reported that the effects of migraine persist for some days after the main headache has ended. During this time, people may feel drained, though some report the feeling of euphoria.

Medications and remedies of migraine:

Various remedies are present for people suffering from migraines, which can help in preventing attacks and ease symptoms. You can follow some of these natural remedies:

  • Herbs and vitamins – There is evidence that herbs may prevent migraines or reduce their severity. Additionally, high dose of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) may prevent migraines or reduce the frequency of headaches.
  • Fish oil – Through various researches, it has been proved that fish oil reduces inflammation.
  • Avoid triggers – Avoid foods or odours that have triggered your migraines in the past. Moreover, establish a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals and also try to control stress-related activities.
  • Exercise regularly – Regular exercise reduces tension and helps in preventing migraines.
  • Some medications that help in lowering down the triggers of migraines are Excedrin and Sumatriptan. Excedrin is a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. It helps in treating pain, fever, inflammation and relaxes muscle contractions in the blood vessels to improve blood flow. It is very important for a migraine patient to take a recommendation from a doctor that Excedrin is safe or not.

Aspirin in Excedrin is very harmful because it may cause stomach or intestinal bleeding, which can be fatal to an unborn baby’s heart. The side effects of this may reduce birth weight or cause other dangerous effects to the child. Try to get recommendation from your doctor if you are pregnant.

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Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.

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