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What Is A Migraine? by Kristen Coleman

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A migraine is a vascular headache, started by changes in the blood vessels of the head. The blood vessels vasoconstrict or tighten, making it difficult for blood to be pumped to the brain as it normally would. The pain of a migraine can strike a sufferer at any time. The pain is usually a throbbing or pounding on the front, back, or sides of the head. It can make a person have blurred vision, dizziness, numbness, vomiting, nausea, photophobia, and phonophobia. Any individual dealing with migraines would say the pain is an overwhelming force controlling their life. Migraine headaches can be chronic, but no person needs to feel resigned to live with them.

Why Do People Have Migraines?
Many factors give us clues as to why migraines are brought on. Hormones are a very big migraine trigger. Also during, before, and after a woman’s menstrual cycle, estrogen levels are out of balance which can cause migraines. Stress, fatigue, big life changes, and lack of sleep have been known to be a triggers, especially when letting the body get run down. Certain smells, foods, and beverages (especially alcoholic drinks) can cause a migraine headache. Not eating at all can also trigger one since there would be a reduction of the sugar levels in the blood. Smoking, car sickness, and the weather can also have an impact on migraine headaches.

How to Prevent a Migraine
No one is stuck with the helpless feeling that nothing works for their migraines. First, relaxation techniques help to reduce the stress of daily life and muscle tension of the neck, which will help before the next migraine will be able to start. Also, normal exercise can have good effects on the circulation of the body, especially when fighting migraine pain. When feeling a migraine coming on, caffeine has been known to help people avoid migraine attacks. It is a vasoconstrictive substance that is put in medicines like Excedrin to stop the pain. If used excessively, caffeine can cause a migraine. It may also be a good idea to find the exact triggers of what’s causing it. It would be wise to keep a day-to-day diary of foods eaten throughout the day, and activities accomplished. If a pattern is seen in days a migraine shows up with days certain activities were done or certain foods were consumed, the sufferer should try to pinpoint exactly what is triggering the pain and stay away from those triggers.

How to Receive Help for Migraines
If no non-drug treatments work for a migraine sufferer, seek a medical opinion from a neurologist or family doctor. Maybe drug treatments would improve the migraine pain. Antidepressants such as Amitriptyline and anti-seizure medications like Topiramate can be used as a maintenance medication to treat migraines. Also, pain relievers such as aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen can be taken as needed for a light migraine headache. These medications do not affect the bloodstream, so sometimes they are not as effective as those that do. Analgesics do raise the pain threshold, so it could be helpful for a moderately light migraine. If the migraine sufferer has experienced migraines for years, they should ask their doctor about getting an MRI or an EEG to see if there is any abnormality in the brain. No matter what, take control of migraine pain. If the pain does not get any better after taking steps to find the triggers and using nondrug treatments, see a doctor for a professional diagnosis. Follow the doctor’s advice and follow the treatment plan.

Van Deer Meer, Antonia. Relief From Chronic Headache. “Migraines.” June 1990. October 17, 2011

Web MD. “Migraine Overview” October 17, 2011

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