What is a migraine?
Common painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, and ibuprofen may be used for quick relief. Some natural home remedies may also help in symptomatic relief.
There are no long-term complications of migraines, but it greatly affects your quality of life during an episode. There is no structural abnormality of the brain or blood vessels. Migraine may be associated with a very small risk of stroke, but it is very rare.
What are the causes of migraines?
Migraines could be caused due to several triggers individually or a combination of more than one trigger. Some common triggers of migraine are:
- Stress: Physical or emotional stress can trigger chemicals in the brain, which can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to a migraine.
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. The premenstrual period and during menstruation are prone to trigger a migraine.
- Excessive fatigue
- Skipping meals or dehydration
- Inadequate sleep
- Eyestrain and refractive errors
- Drugs and medications
- Foods and drinks: Some foods and drinks, such as cheese, alcohol, food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), and wine may trigger a migraine.
- Caffeine: Excessive caffeine or withdrawal can affect the blood vessels.
- Changes in weather: Extremes of temperatures or changes in altitude can trigger a migraine.
- Allergies, and nasal and sinus infections
- Smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs
- Genetic predisposition: If one parent has a history of migraines, the offspring has a 50% chance of getting them and if both parents have a history, the risk increases to 75%.
What are the symptoms of migraines?
Migraines are usually episodic and recurrent. The periods between the episodes are symptom-free. The duration of an episode and frequency varies with each individual and exposure to triggers. An episode may last for a few minutes to hours to days.
Migraine is more common in adults, though children may also suffer from migraines (pediatric migraines). Migraine is also more common in women.
A migraine episode is characterized by the following:
- Migraine aura: Migraine episode begins with an aura. The aura may either precede the migraine or accompany the headache attacks. The aura is a specific neurological symptom that is associated with the headache. It may be visual (blind spot, fuzzy lines) or sensory (tingling).
- Migraine attack: Intense headaches that usually occur on one side of the head and/or face. The pain may radiate to other parts of the head or neck. Pain may also be present behind the eye.
- Migraine headaches are usually associated with symptoms such as
How do you get rid of a migraine fast?
Common painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin, and ibuprofen may be used for quick relief. Some natural home remedies may also help in symptomatic relief. Long-term treatment of migraine, however, is a combination of medication prescribed by the physician and lifestyle modification.
Medical management of an acute episode
- Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers or prescription-strength painkillers can help in reducing the pain. Common painkillers used are paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
- Triptans: They are prescription drugs such as Imitrex or Tosymra (sumatriptan) that block pain pathways in the brain, constrict the blood vessels, and reduce inflammation. They are usually taken at the start of the headache or during migraine aura and can help stop a migraine attack. They are available in the form of pills, injections, and nasal sprays. They may be taken along with a painkiller.
- Dihydroergotamines (Migranal): Migranal is a commonly prescribed drug for cases in which the episodes last longer than 24 hours. Effective when taken at the start of an episode, they constrict blood vessels and reduce symptoms. They are available as injections and nasal sprays.
- Antiemetics (anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medications)
Medical management to prevent or reduce the frequency of episodes
- Beta-blockers: These medications lower blood pressure and prevent the blood vessels from dilating. These are the most commonly prescribed medication to prevent migraine attacks or reduce frequency.
- Other medications such as anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, immuno-modulators, or Botox injections may be advised.
- Treatment of underlying medical causes.
- This includes identifying triggers and avoiding them when and if possible.
- A healthy diet, adequate hydration, adequate sleep, exercises like yoga, management of stress, avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol or caffeine can help control migraine attacks.
Home remedies to treat a migraine attack
- Cold compress: With the help of ice packs or cold towels.
- Caffeine: Though caffeine helps in reducing headaches, the habit of excessive caffeine can trigger a migraine.
- Resting in a quiet, dark room and getting adequate sleep.
- Mild exercise like yoga. Certain yoga poses can help reduce pain. Vigorous exercise may increase pain.
- Diet rich in magnesium and vitamin B12 such as green vegetables and nuts. Nutritional supplements may also be taken.
- Avoiding foods, drinks, and drugs that trigger migraine episodes.
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