30 million people suffer from migraines. The majority of migraine sufferers are women. Understanding migraines is key to finding a solution to get rid of a migraine fast.
What is a migraine?
When blood vessels enlarge, nerve fibers coil around them and cause a release of chemicals. This results in a migraine. A migraine is a type of headache that consists of an intense throbbing or sharp pulsing on one side of your head. There are two types of migraines: migraines with auras and migraines without auras. Migraines without auras can cause nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sounds. Migraines with auras occur in 1 out of 5 people suffering from migraines. An aura is a sensory warning. It is the feeling or series of sensations that come 10 to 30 minutes before the onset of a migraine. Symptoms of auras include seeing zigzag lines, flashing lights or blind spots and feeling numbness or tingling in the face or hands. Aura migraines can also abruptly alter your sense of smell, taste and touch, and they can cause you to feel mentally fuzzy. Nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sounds can also accompany migraines with auras.
Is it a migraine or a bad headache?
There are a few symptoms to look for when trying to decipher if you are having a migraine or a bad tension headache. Tension headaches do not have nausea as a symptom, and they are usually concentrated in the back of the head, the eyebrows, or the whole head. Sensitivity to light or sound is a symptom. One of the biggest differences between a migraine and a tension headache is the life span. A tension headache can last from a few minutes up to a few hours. This very short-lived compared to a migraine that can have a lifespan from a few hours to a few days. Tension headaches are infrequent. Migraines tend to be very episodic.
Doctors use the “5,4,3,2,1″ criteria to diagnose migraines without aura.
5 or more attacks
4 hours to 3 days in duration
At least 2 of unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate to severe pain that intensifies when conducting physical activities.
At least 1 additional symptom such as vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to light or sound.
If you are regularly experiencing migraine symptoms and signs, you should keep a record of your attacks and how you treat them.
The Four Stages of a Migraine
Migraines first occur in a person during their childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Here are four stages of a migraine: prodrome, aura, headaches (attack) and postdrome. The stages vary by people. You may not experience all four stages.
A day or two before a migraine, you might experience a few subtle changes that hint to an oncoming migraine. These changes include constipation, food cravings, hyperactivity, irritability, neck stiffness, and uncontrollable yawning.
As stated earlier, an aura usually occurs before a migraine. However, they can occur during a migraine as well. Aura symptoms are caused by the sympathetic nervous system. Once a symptom starts, it can last for 20 to 60 minutes. Some more examples of aura symptoms include vision loss, and speech and language problem.
A migraine can last from four to 72 hours. However, the frequency of a migraine attack varies from person to person. You can have a migraine several times a month or less. Besides nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity, you can also experience blurred vision and become lightheaded. This can lead to fainting.
The last stage occurs after the migraine attack. You may feel drained and washed out. Some people feel a little euphoric, but that might be just relief from the throbbing pain.
When should you go see a doctor?
Take your log of your migraines to your yearly check up to discuss the headaches. Before you go to the doctor, write down your key personal information such as major stress in your life. Also, make a list of all the medication you are taking. Include any vitamins or supplements you are taking along with the dosage taken. You should write down questions to ask your doctor. Some basic questions are the following:
What is likely triggering my migraine headache?
Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
What is the best course of action?
What changes to my lifestyle or diet do you suggest I make?
What kind of tests do I need?
You should also ask your primary doctor to recommend a neurologist. The test that are performed are an EEG, CT, MRI and spinal tap. These test check for
Bleeding within the skull
Blood clot within the membrane that covers the brain
Dilated blood vessel in the brain
Too much or too little cerebrospinal fluid
Inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord
Nasal sinus blockage
Postictal headache (after stroke or seizure)
You should see your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you have any of these symptoms and signs.
An abrupt, sever headache that resembles a thunderclap.
A headache with fever, mental confusion seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness, trouble speaking, or stiffness in the neck.
Headache after a head injury
A chronic headache (headache for more than 15 days) that worsens by coughing, straining, exertion or sudden movement.
New headache pain if you are older than 50.
What causes migraines?
Usually the key to curing a problem is discovery the cause of it. Unfortunately, the world of migraines still has many unanswered questions. One of them includes what causes migraines. There is no definite answer, but there are a few hypotheses. Some scientists say that genetic and environmental factors play a role in having migraines.
Migraines may be caused by a shift in the interaction between the brainstem and the trigeminal nerve or an imbalance in brain chemicals. The latter is the most popular theory. When a migraine occurs, the serotonin levels in the body decreases. Serotonin regulates pain in your nervous system. When the level of serotonin drops, the blood vessels thickens.
It is hard to decipher what triggers a migraine. However, research has supported a few theories for triggers. They are the following:
Allergies and allergic reaction
Smoking first and second hand.
Hormonal changes in women. This can include menstruation fluctuations, birth control pills and the onset of menopause. This trigger might explain why women get migraines more than men.
How to Treat a Migraine?
Now that we have a little background information on migraines, it is time to treat them. There is no cure for migraines, but migraines can be managed. There are several home remedies and drug treatments people use for migraines. It is debatable which ones are best. It varies from person to person.
There are two types of traditional medication for migraines: pain-relieving medication and preventive medication. Pain-relieving medication is an acute abortive treatment that is taken during an attack to stop the symptoms. Aspirin and pain relievers such as Tylenol and Aleve can relieve mild migraines. Drug marketed specifically for migraines such as Excedrin Migraine can relieve moderate migraines, but they are not effective for sever migraines. Regular use of these medicines may cause ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and a headache from over medication.
There are a few prescription drugs for migraines. Triptan is a presciption drug that constricts the blood vessels and block pain pathways in the brain. It is effective, but it has side effects that include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and muscle weakness. It is not for stroke or heart attack victims.
Preventative medication is daily medicine used to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Some of preventative medicines are beta blockers, antidepressants, anti seizure drugs and botox.
Beta blockers used for high blood pressure may reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. After a few weeks of usage, you will see a reduction in migraine symptoms.
Antidepressants reduce the frequency of migraines by stabilizing the level of serotonin in the body.
Anti seizure drugs is good at reducing migraines but cannot be taken in large doses.
Botox is great for chronic migraines.
Before you resort to medication, there are a few home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help reduce the frequency and severity of a migraine. Here is a nine step guide to getting rid of a migraine fast.
1. Keep a migraine headache journal.
2. Apply a cold compress.
Place it directly on the area of pain. This method offers quick relief and sometimes can get rid of the migraine completely.
3. Have a little caffeine.
Caffeine can trigger a migraine, but it can also treat one. Caffeine enhances the effects of a pain relieve by 40% by helping your body absorb the drug more quickly.
4. Relaxation Techniques.
Allow your body to rest and practice techniques such as mediation and breathing exercises.
5. Rest in a quiet dark room.
As mentioned earlier, some people feel a tendency to lie down in a dark room .this can work. Avoid bright lights and sounds that make your migraine worse and get some sleep.
6. Avoid triggers
Use your journal to figure out your triggers and avoid them.
7. Watch your dietary habits
Do not skip meals. Your body will not function properly
8. Sleep patterns
Too much sleep and the lack of sleep can cause a migraine. Set a specific time to go to bed and a time to wake up.
9. Avoid Stress
Stress can trigger migraines. Reduce the amount of stress you have from your job and your home life. Regular exercise is a great way to get rid of stress, and it creates overall better health.
Someone alternative medicine treatments include acupuncture, massage therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. There is evidence that all of these techniques can reduce the occurrence of migraines.