Common assumption is to treat migraine as an intense headache but only those who experience the pain can justify the falsity of this claim! Migraine is a neurological disease that is third most common and sixth most disabling in the world. Still we treat it as simple as a common headache and ask the affected person to take rest with some basic medications that are prescribed usually for cold and cough! Headache disorders are common across the world and India has a high prevalence rate of migraine and other headache disorders comparing global statistics.
Migraine is characterized by recurring throbbing pain on one side of the head although in 1/3rd of the cases the pain occurs on both sides. It is generally accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, temporary visual imparity, sensitivity to light, touch, smell or sound and general weakness. The intensity and effect of a migraine attack can be so severe that it calls for the patient to stay in bed without movements for hours together.
Quality of Life
A simple cold/headache affects work performance, concentration and impairs 100% deliverable efforts. A migraine does all these and much more-it cripples a person’s quality of life depending on the intensity and frequency of the condition. Most people suffer from an attack between 4 and 72 hours and remain devoid of any symptoms between attacks. Migraine disrupts family, social and work life. Sadly, this condition affects one in five women and only one in every fifteen men. Statistics show a greater number of boys suffering from the disease before puberty but the tide turns favorable to them post-adolescence as the prime sufferers become girls right from this period. Even kids suffer from migraine and worse is that, half of the migraine sufferers witnessed their first migraine attack before the age of 12.
Chronic migraine is even more debilitating in which the affected person suffers from at least 15 migraine days every month and 85% of people suffering from chronic migraine are women. That’s because varying fluctuations in estrogen levels impact frequency and severity of attacks. Despite such severity, side effects and pain, migraine remains as one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the world.
Migraine is basically of three types namely migraine with aura in which there are various symptoms indicating the onset of the condition such as flashing lights, migraine without aura in which the migraine starts without any prior warning symptoms as in the case of most people and migraine aura without headache where the person experiences any prior warning symptoms of migraine, but the headache never develops after these symptoms. It also happens that some people suffer from migraine multiple times a week while some don’t suffer from a migraine attack even for years together before another one strikes.
The actual/primary cause of migraine is not clear although there are several causes attributed for the disease. Basically, it hits a person due to changes in chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Also, many people suffering from the condition usually have a genetic cause suggesting that migraine is hereditary. A child who has one parent suffering from migraine has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition and if both parents suffer from migraine, the chances of inheritance increases to 75%. Common reasons that can induce migraine include stress, bright or flashing lights, anxiety, noise, strong smells, fluctuating weather conditions, menstruation, too much or too little sleep and certain foods and beverages.
Common foods that can trigger the onset of the condition include chocolate, alcohol, certain nuts and fruits, yeast, fermented or pickled goods, aged cheese, certain medications, shift work, strenuous exercise (when a person is not used to it), emotional triggers such as shock, depression, excitement and tension, monosodium glutamate, missed/delayed/fluctuating meal timing and processed meats.
Nothing can cure migraine, but we can treat the disease effectively to reduce pain and recurrent attacks. Some effective steps to manage migraine include:
Migraine attacks can worsen over time, but they do improve over the years and provide relief to the patient. Until then, taking good care of yourself during the attack, ensuring that you take every step possible to minimize pain or an attack and following a healthy lifestyle that ensures mental health too can keep migraine under control.
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