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Migraine Facts

Migraine Facts

  • Migraines are a neurological disease that can cause a wide range of symptoms. The most commonly thought of symptom is a headache.
  • According to the National Headache Foundation, over 29 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches.
  • In the U.S., 18% of women and 6% of men report having had at least one migraine episode in the previous year.
  • The migraine is considered a vascular headache because it is associated with changes in the size of the arteries in and outside of the brain. Prompted by biochemical changes in the brain, one of the larger nerve branches (the trigeminal nerve) in your head triggers a chain reaction: the changes in serotonin in the blood vessels and the brain lead to shifts of blood flow, bypassing the capillaries and going through shunts to the veins. The distention of these vessels contributes to the pain of migraine. The nerves around the blood vessels release chemicals that cause a sterile inflammation eliciting pain signals into the brain.Women experience migraines at least three times more often than men do, and this may be due to hormonal influences. Often times migraines begin in childhood and worsen during the most productive years.
  • Four out of five migraine sufferers report a family history of migraines, but experts are not sure if this is genetic or a family predisposition. Some experts consider migraines to be an inherited malfunction of the brain’s normal pain-generating system.
  • The term migraine is originally derived from the Greek word hemicrania, which means “half of the head.” For about 70% of migraine sufferers, the headache is unilateral, or occurring on one side only.
  • Famous migraine sufferers include Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Nietzsche, Tchaikovsky, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, actor/director Lee Grant, Chicago Bulls basketball player Scottie Pippen, Denver Bronco football player Terrell Davis, golfer Fred Couples and New York Yankee baseball player Joe Girardi.



Types of Migraines

There are several types of migraines. All share basic features, and each person suffers in a unique way. Generally, however, migraines often begin as a dull ache and then develop into a constant, throbbing and pulsating pain that you may feel at the temples or the front or back of one side of the head. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise usually accompany this pain.The two most prevalent types of migraine are migraine with aura (formerly referred to as “classic migraine”) and migraine without aura (formerly referred to as “common migraine”).

Migraine surgery, a minimally invasive procedure, is recommended for those who do not get adequate relief with medication, for those who cannot tolerate their medications side effects, or for those who do not want to expose themselves to the unknown side effects of these recently developed medications.

Migraine with Aura

Approximately one-third of migraine sufferers experience an aura prior to the headache pain. While most migraine sufferers experience visual problems during the headache, you may be someone whose migraine begins with an aura, a manifestation of neurological symptoms. Generally, the aura begins from five to thirty minutes before the actual onset of the headache. You may see wavy or jagged lines, dots or flashing lights, or experience tunnel vision or blind spots in one or both eyes. The aura can include vision or hearing hallucinations and disruptions in smell (such as strange odors), taste or touch. It can become even more disconcerting or frightening if it involves feelings of numbness, a “pins-and-needles” sensation or even difficulty in recalling or speaking the correct word. These neurological events may last sixty minutes and will fade as the headache begins. The presence of an aura does not appear to significantly impact whether or not a sufferer responds to surgery.

Hemiplegic Migraine

If you suffer from this rare but severe type of migraine with aura, you probably also have a family history of it. The hemiplegic migraine often begins with temporary motor paralysis and/or sensory disturbances on one side of the body, followed by the headache — within the hour — which may be accompanied by numbness or the “pins and needles” sensation. When the headache appears, the initial neurological symptoms may disappear.

Retinal Migraine

Another rare migraine, the retinal type starts with a temporary, partial, or complete loss of vision in one eye. It is followed by a dull ache behind that eye that may spread to the rest of the head.

Abdominal Migraine

It is difficult to diagnose this migraine because the pain is felt in the abdomen. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may occur, and the pain usually occurs in the middle of the abdomen. The attack typically lasts hours and occurs mostly in children as a forerunner of migraine.

Migraine without Aura

A migraine is a vascular headache, which means the headache is associated with changes in the size of the arteries inside and around the skull. During the pre-headache phase, blood vessels constrict; when vascular dilation occurs, the migraine begins. The blood vessels are thought to become inflamed as well as swollen, and it is believed that migraine pain is caused by this inflammation, as well as by the pressure on the swollen walls of the blood vessels.

Most migraine sufferers experience two to four headaches per month, though some people can get one every few days, and others may only have one or two a year. Most migraine headaches last at least four hours, although very severe ones can last up to a week. Headaches may begin at any time of day or night and sufferers may occasionally wake from sleep.

Common complaints after surgery:

Also a rare and severe migraine, the ophthalmologic migraine’s pain usually surrounds the eyeball and lasts from a few days to a few months. There may be paralysis in the muscles surrounding the eye. If these symptoms occur, you should seek immediate medical attention because the symptoms can be caused by pressure on the nerves behind the eye.

Are there scars?

Yes, however, all are small and hidden in a crease or within the hair. Nasal airway incisions are inside the nose.

Basilar Artery Migraine

This very rare form of migraine is accompanied by dizziness, confusion or lack of balance. It comes on suddenly and can result in fleeting visual disturbances, the inability to speak properly, ringing in the ears, and vomiting. Throbbing occurs in the back of the head. The basilar artery migraine is strongly related to hormonal influences and primarily strikes young adult women and adolescent girls. As sufferers age, the migraine with aura may replace the basilar artery type.

Migraine Causes

  • Physical and Environmental Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Oversleeping or lack of sleep
  • Fasting or missing a meal
  • Food or medication that affects the diameter of blood vessels
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Menses
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Changes in altitude

Foods and Diet

Specific foods are suspected of triggering at least 30 percent of migraine headaches. These include:

Foods with additives: Nitrates and nitrites (usually in processed meats), yellow (annatto) food coloring, and MSG (monosodium glutamate). Canned or processed foods, Chinese foods, tenderizer, and seasonings such as soy sauce may contain MSG.

Foods with Tyramine: Red wines and most alcoholic beverages; aged cheeses and processed meats (including pizza and hot dogs); peanuts; chicken livers; pickled foods; sourdough bread; bread and crackers containing cheese; broad beans, peas, lentils. Foods to eat in moderation include: avocados, bananas, citrus fruits, figs, raisins, red plums, raspberries, and chocolates.