Migraines and Headaches

A migraine headache is a form of a headache that is often severe and accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound and nausea or vomiting. At times, a migraine is described as an intense throbbing or pulsing pain. It is common for a migraine to be felt on only one side of the head. Unfortunately, for migraine headache sufferers, migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Migraine headaches can affect people of any age, although they usually begin in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. Depending upon the sufferer, migraines can be sparse or very common, striking several times a month.


Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Migraines commonly progress through the 4 stages listed below. Although you may not experience all 4 stages, each stage has it own symptoms. The 4 stages of a migraine headache include:

1. Prodrome Stage: This stage may begin several days before the onset of a migraine. During this time you may notice the following warning signs:

  • Neck Stiffness
  • Food cravings
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Frequent yawning

2. Aura Stage: The aura stage is one in which many people will not experience, but can occur either before or during a migraine. The symptoms of this stage are nervous system related and include:

  • Visual disturbances including vision loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hearing noises
  • Pins and needles sensations in arms and legs
  • Uncontrollable spasms such as jerking
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body or the face
  • Difficulty speaking

3. Attack Stage: During the attack stage of the migraine, you are likely to experience symptoms such as:

  • Throbbing or pulsing pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, including fainting
  • Pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to smells and touch

4. Post-drome Stage: This final stage occurs after the migraine attack is complete. It it normal to feel either exhausted or extreme happiness for 24 hours following the migraine headache. During this time, you may also experience the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Moodiness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound


Causes of Migraines

There is no known cause for migraine headaches, although genetics and/or environmental factors may influence the likelihood of developing migraines. It is thought that migraines may be a result of changes in the brain stem as it relates to the trigeminal nerve (a major pain pathway). Serotonin, which aids in regulation of pain in your nervous system, may also play a factor in the development of migraines.

Factors that may contribute to a migraine headache include the following:

  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Certain foods
  • Changes in sleep-wake pattern
  • Certain additives found in food
  • Physical exertion
  • Certain beverages, such as alcohol
  • Environmental changes
  • Certain Medications
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimuli


Diagnosing Migraines

Many times, migraine sufferers allow their headaches to go undiagnosed and untreated. However, if you are suffering from migraine attacks, your doctor may be able to help. Keep a record of your attacks so that you are prepared to discuss them with your doctor at your appointment.

In some cases, your doctor may order tests to aid in the diagnosis, such as blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, and/or a spinal tap. Your doctor will discuss each test and the reasoning behind each test with you in great detail at your appointment.

If you have any of the symptoms below, seek immediate treatment:

  • Headache accompanied by:
    • Fever
    • Stiff neck
    • Mental confusion
    • Double vision
    • Weakness
    • Seizures
    • Numbness
    • Trouble speaking
  • A severe headache that comes on abruptly
  • Headache following a head injury
  • A chronic headache that gets worse with:
    • Exertion
    • Straining
    • Sudden movement
    • Coughing


Treatment of Migraines

Depending upon your individual case, your doctor may recommend various treatment options to help stop symptoms and eliminate future migraine attacks. Common treatment options include:

  • Pain medications
    • Pain relievers
    • Triptans
    • Ergots
    • Anti-nausea medications
    • Opioid medications
    • Glucocorticoids
  • Preventive medicines
    • Cardiovascular drugs
    • Antidepressants
    • Anti-seizure drugs
    • Botox
  • Alternative medicines
    • Acupuncture
    • Biofeedback
    • Massage therapy
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Supplements such as herbs, vitamins, and minerals


Learn More

Do not let migraines hold you back from enjoying your favorite activities. If you are a migraine sufferer, The Phyisican’s can help. Our expert team of doctors will aid in uncovering the source of your headaches and work to prevent the occurrence of future migraine headaches. Request an appointment today.