Migraines are primary headaches, meaning they are not directly caused by another underlying illness. Migraine disorder falls under the umbrella of neurological disorders (those affecting the brain, spinal cord or nerves though the symptoms may be quite debilitating.
Episodic and Chronic Migraines
Some people suffer episodic migraines (EM), whereby they experience mild to moderate migraines once every few months or so. Also known as migraine disease or migraine disorder, chronic migraines (CM) is a troublesome neurological condition that causes more frequent and disabling migraines that are often longer in duration than episodic migraines.
Migraines can lead to excruciating pain and discomfort that can put a person out of commission for days. Migraines often extend far beyond head pain. Most primary migraines go through 4 stages: prodromal, aura, headache and post-drome
. Symptoms of these stages may include:
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
- Pain that radiates down face or neck
- Extreme sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Nausea or vomiting
- Faintness or syncope
- Irritability or moodiness
- Stiff neck muscles
- Partial vision loss or blurry vision
- Numbness or weakness in the face or upper body
Many doctors are now having migraine-prone patients practice certain prevention techniques in hopes their migraines will be fewer and farther apart. Some of these strategies include:
- Keeping a ‘trigger diary’ to see if your migraines correlate to specific activities, foods or scents
- Avoidance. Once you identify potential triggers such as scents, dust or certain foods, do your best to avoid them
- Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS) devices have been greenlit by the FDA as preventative migraine therapy tools. It may be worth a try if you frequently struggle with migraines.
- Curb stress - Excess stress can adversely affect any chronic medical condition, including migraines.
- Work out on the regular - Endorphins are nature’s painkillers, getting them flowing routinely may help cut down on migraine pain.
- Keep your hormones in check - Estrogen in particular plays a role with migraines in females, some doctors use hormone altering medications with some patients.
- Watch your diet. Certain foods such as artificial sweeteners that have been linked to migraines.
- Establish routine. A lack of sleep can cause migraines, so can the stress of a schedule that is all over the map, so try to stick to a routine bedtime, as well as a nightly routine.
- Give acupuncture a try! Many people swear by acupuncture for various illnesses, it can’t hurt (too much!) to give it a try to see if it works for you.
Medical Treatment for Migraine Disorders
Unfortunately, prevention isn’t always effective but luckily there are many treatment options available today for when a migraine does strike. Decades ago aspirin was all that was available to aid these massive pains in the head, but modern medicine has opened up the gates for faster-acting and longer lasting migraine relief. Some medications doctors often prescribe patients with migraine disorders include: NSAIDs to help with the pain and inflammation, analgesics, daily preventative medication in serious cases of migraine disorders and triptan injections just to name a few. If you experience migraines, talk to your doctor so he or she can evaluate your case to determine the best treatment plan for you specifically.
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