- A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterised by recurrent headaches. They can be moderate to severe and usually affects one half of the head. The headaches are pulsating in nature and last from 2 to 72 hours
A migraine is a very common and distressing disorder. It isn’t usually fatal but can adversely affect the quality of life of the sufferer. If you suffer from migraine headaches, you’re not alone. According to the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF) of the US, migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world.
A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterised by recurrent headaches. They can be moderate to severe and usually affects one half of the head. The headaches are pulsating in nature and last from 2 to 72 hours. Other symptoms associated with migraines include vomiting, nausea and increased sensitivity to light, sound or smell. Physical activity generally makes the pain worse.
Migraines are more common in females than males and often linked with family history. 85 per cent of chronic migraine sufferers are women mostly due to hormonal causes, suggests MRF. The underlying mechanisms of migraines are not well understood but are believed to involve blood vessels and nerves of the brain.
A migraine is generally divided into 4 phases with different symptoms and signs, although not all phases are necessarily experienced.
The first phase occurs hours to days before the headache. Its symptoms and signs include mood changes, irritability, fatigue, euphoria, diarrhoea or constipation and muscle stiffness.
The second phase occurs immediately before the headache. Its symptoms can be visual, sensory or motor in nature and many people experience multiple symptoms. Visual symptoms occur in almost 99 per cent of cases and include alteration in field of vision and blurring.
The third phase is known as the pain or headache phase in which the headache is throbbing and moderate to severe in intensity.
The final phase which is at the end of a migraine attack presents with fatigue, head pain, weakness and gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and diarrhoea.
The underlying causes of migraines are not very well known but are associated with genetics and environmental factors. According to the MRF, about 90 per cent of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines.
A number of psychological conditions may also cause migraines including depression, anxiety, stress, and bipolar disorder. Other implicated causes include pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, sleep deprivation, alcohol use.
This includes keeping stress levels in check and taking regular breaks from your busy schedule to de-stress, getting enough sleep and regularly doing physical exercise.
If your migraine attacks persist despite of taking these measures, your best option would be to consult a medical professional for professional advice.
The author is a Medical Student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University