What is Migraine and How to deal with it?

29 April, 2022  |  Camran Khan

What is Migraine and How to deal with it?

Migraine is a condition that tends to manifest in the form of acute headaches. A migraine headache is distinguished from 'regular' headaches based on the severity of symptoms of migraine along with sensitivity to light or nausea. It is not an uncommon condition, and 6 million people suffer from it in the United Kingdom. The prevalence of migraines is about 5% to 25% for women and 2% to 10% for men.

A migraine attack can lead to moderate to severe pain and last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. Anyone who has experienced a migraine even once will know that it can be exhausting and paralysing. Unfortunately, there is no proven cure for migraine headaches, but several medication options and lifestyle changes can help. 

Some medications can effectively stop a migraine attack at the very start. Others are designed to reduce the pain and severity of the symptoms of a migraine attack once it has begun. 

Symptoms & Triggers of Migraine

Migraine sufferers frequently report that their headaches are worse than usual headaches. They are correct; the symptoms might get more severe.

How can you tell whether you're suffering from a migraine? Whether patients are experiencing a moderate or severe migraine attack, the symptoms of migraines can be easily recognized:

  • Just one half of the head is experiencing intense, pulsating pain.

  • Nausea and stomach pains

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and scent

  • Body temperature that is abnormal

  • Dizzy spells

There are some symptoms that can surface in the lead up to migraine a day or two earlier. Anxiety, irritation, neck stiffness, frequent yawning, and constipation are some of the symptoms you may experience.

The following are some of the most common migraine triggers:

  • Stress

  • Some foods and odours

  • Fasting

  • Changes in sleep patterns

  • Physical exertion

  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

  • Weather variations

  • Hormonal changes

Learning to deal with migraines

In some migraine cases, the patient can learn to identify the triggers before the onset of a migraine attack. By learning to recognise these triggers, the patient can learn to preempt the migraine and take measures to mitigate it. Everyone will have unique triggers that will signal an oncoming migraine, so the migraine patient will have to identify their triggers and avoid them whenever possible. 

Since most triggers will be unique to you, you will need to find a health provider who can help you identify those triggers and advise you on how to manage those triggers and associated symptoms. Some recommendations that will be effective for most patients with migraines are:

Exercising regularly

Exercising consistently and daily can help reduce the severity of migraine attacks and reduce their overall frequency. You do not need to exercise too much either; moderately intense exercise is enough to help against migraines. Regular walking and jogging can help in the same way. 

If you have a migraine attack that is already in progress, movement or exercise will only worsen at that point. That is why do not exercise or work out after experiencing the symptoms of a migraine. It is also possible for exercise to bring about a migraine attack, especially with physically demanding activities such as running or swimming. Also, do not begin exercising if you are thirsty or hungry, as that can also trigger a migraine attack.

Regulate the Diet

What you eat and drink during a day plays a large part in determining the frequency and severity of your migraines. Therefore, an essential diet tip is never to miss a meal during your regular meal times. 

Similar to eating regular meals, hydration is also crucial for managing migraines. One of the most common triggers of migraine attacks is a lack of water intake. So ensure that you drink enough water or other liquids during the day.

Some types of food and drinks have been reported to be common triggers for many migraine sufferers. Foods and beverages that can trigger a migraine attack include; caffeinated drinks, aged cheese, fatty foods, nitrates (the chemicals in processed meats), aspartame, chocolate and nuts. While it is not proven that these foods can trigger migraine attacks, craving any of these foods or drinks can be a trigger that can signal the onset of a migraine attack.

A food diary can be an excellent tool to determine whether your migraines are linked with what you are eating and drinking. Keeping a record of your migraine attacks and tallying them with the foods you ate before the migraines can help you pinpoint food-related triggers.

Medications as Treatments of Migraine

Many medications are designed to either stop a migraine attack from starting or lessen the severity once it has begun. These medicines include both prescription and nonprescription drugs, and they come in the form of tablets, nasal sprays or injections. In addition, several new drugs have been developed in just the past few years that effectively manage chronic migraines. Suppose you are already taking medicines for migraines. In that case, you should be aware of the increased range of options available if your current treatments are not effective at preventing or treating migraines.

Your doctor can be the best judge of which medications might effectively treat or prevent your migraine attacks. If you suffer from migraines that last upwards of four hours or more, or if you suffer from frequent migraine attacks (more than four migraine attacks in a single month), your doctor might advise you to start taking medication to prevent migraine attacks. 

The Triptan class of migraine medications, namely frovatriptan, rizatriptan, sumatriptan, and zolmitriptan are among the most common and effective migraine medications.

Treatments of migraine can vary based on individual conditions, and likewise, there can be side effects of migraine medication. Therefore, you and your doctor will need to work together to figure out which treatment methods work best for you. This might require some trial and error at first. Still, once you have found an effective combination of treatment methods, including diet and lifestyle adjustments along with medications, you should keep practising those methods consistently and regularly.

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