A migraine is essentially defined as a throbbing or pulsating unilateral headache .i.e. limited to one side of the head.

Incidence of Migraines

Migraine is known to affect over 28 million Americans, with women getting affected at least three times more than men get. While some people might have several migraine attacks in a month, others will have only a few migraines throughout their whole life.

Though migraines might occur at any age, these are most likely to begin between the ages of 10 and 40 and diminish after the age of 50.

Types of Migraines

Migraines are classified according to the symptoms they exhibit. The two most common types are migraines with aura and migraines without an aura.

Other less known types include:

• Basilar artery migraine

• Cartidynia

• Headache-free migraine

• Opthalmoplegic migraine

• Status migraine

Symptoms of Migraine

Migraine headaches are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head. This condition is often accompanied by nausea, photophobia and phonophobia, which are hypersensitivity to light and sound respectively.

A migraine is also quite often preceded by a sensory warning sign. Known as an aura, this includes flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg. Such headaches, earlier known as classic migraines, also include the following symptoms:

• Sparkling flashes of light

• Dazzling zigzag lines in your field of vision

• Slowly spreading blind spots in your vision

• Language and speech problems

The other main symptoms of a migraine headache include:

• Nausea and vomiting

• Sleep disruption

• Depression

• Head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality

• Pain that worsens with physical activity

Some patients of migraine headache also experience sensations of premonition (prodrome) several hours or a day before. These include feelings of elation, cravings for sweets, thirst and drowsiness.

Causes of Migraines

Thought the exact causes of migraines are scientifically unclear, although cerebral vessel vasodilatation is prominent, certain triggers have been recognized that mark the onset of a migraine attack.

A trigger is any stimulus that initiates a process or reaction. The most commonly identified triggers include:

• Alcohol

• Environmental factors such as weather and altitude

• Caffeinated drinks

• Physical exhaustion

• Glare and strong lights

• Pre and post menstrual hormonal changes

• Hunger

• Lack of sleep

• Unusual smells

• Blood platelet disorder

• Low blood sugar

• Medications

• Stress

Treatment of Migraines

Normally, a two-pronged approach is adopted for treatment of this disorder. Here we briefly explain each of them.

A) Prophylactic treatment

This approach is aimed at reducing the number of migraines and is adopted for patients who have more than three attacks of a headache in a month.

Several forms of medications are used in this form of treatment. The main ones include:

• Beta blockers, e.g. propranolol, atenolol

• Antiseizure drugs, e.g. valproic acid, topiramate

• Calcium channel blockers, e.g. verapamil, amlodidpine

• Tricyclic antidepressants, e.g amitriptyline, desipramine

• Methysergide maleate

B) Abortive treatment

This approach aims at reducing pain caused by an attack. Mild and infrequent migraines are mostly relieved with mild medications and home care remedies, such as cold packs. A few of these include:

• Analgesics

• Serotonin receptors

• Ergots