As every migraine sufferer knows, migraines aren't just headaches. Migraines cause debilitating pain that can make it impossible to get through the day--much less be productive.
June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. At Evidation, we know many people in our community deal with migraines and headaches, and we're working to provide you with the information you need to come out on the other side following a migraine.
What causes migraines?
Many migraine sufferers work to pinpoint their triggers to avoid a future migraine. Unfortunately, researchers still aren't completely sure what causes migraines to occur. There’s likely a combination of factors at work, including changes in blood vessels, nerves, and chemicals.
While the exact cause of migraines has yet to be determined, many people find that certain health and life circumstances make migraines more likely to occur.
Common migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle (people who menstruate are three times more likely to experience migraines)
- Stress (both chronic and acute)
- Certain foods and drinks, including caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate
Knowing your triggers can help you and your doctor develop a plan to stop migraines in the future. Many people who live with migraines find it helpful to keep a journal regarding their symptoms. This can help you and your healthcare professional to work together to find patterns, allowing you to develop a plan that makes it less likely that you'll experience migraines in the future.
What does a migraine feel like?
For many people, a migraine involves severe headache pain. It's often only felt on one side of the head. When people are experiencing a migraine, they might be extremely sensitive to light and sound and may experience gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting) due to headache pain. Some people experiencing a migraine find it difficult to fully open their eyes due to light changes (similar to the feeling many experiences following eye dilation at an eye appointment).
There are three types of migraines, and the type of migraine you experience can determine your symptoms. Some people only ever experience one type of migraine, while other people find that their migraines change over time.
The three most common types of migraines include:
- Migraine with aura: In this type of migraine, warning signs are experienced before the pain sets in. Many people experience an aura, which can include the appearance of flashing lights, blind spots in the vision, patterns in the vision (such as dots or repeating black marks, and tunnel vision).
- Migraine without aura: This type of migraine only involves severe pain without the warning signs associated with aura.
- Silent migraine: Only the aura portion is experienced in a silent migraine, and head pain does not occur.
Migraines are different from person to person. Suppose your symptoms are more severe than normal, or you're experiencing new and concerning symptoms (such as paralysis, weakness, slurred speech, a level of pain you haven't experienced before, fever, double vision, confusion, seizures, or a rash). In that case, it's important to go to the emergency room for help, as these symptoms can be signs of a more serious condition.
How long can a migraine last?
The exact length of a migraine can depend on several factors. Some people find that their migraines always fade within a certain time, while others experience more variability. Typically, a migraine lasts between four hours and three days.
The frequency of your migraines is important to mention to your healthcare provider. If you experience more than a few days of migraines per month, you may be a candidate for medicine that can stop migraines from occurring in the first place.
Are you searching for information on how to relieve a migraine? Unfortunately, there's no cure for migraines--yet. Researchers are working to determine the exact cause of migraines, so they can develop treatments to help people suffering.
Thankfully, some medicines can treat the symptoms of migraines, allowing you to get back on your feet faster following an attack.
Many people find that painkillers are helpful when experiencing a migraine. Taking medicine like Tylenol or Advil as soon as you notice the first symptoms of a migraine (such as an aura before the pain sets in) can help minimize symptoms, even if you can't eliminate them. If you find that you're experiencing regular migraine attacks that leave you reaching for the medicine cabinet, be sure to talk with your doctor, as they may be able to provide you with different, more effective pain management options.
Triptans (such as Imitrex, Zomig, Amerge, and Maxalt) are prescription medicines that can help with brain changes thought to occur before a migraine. You may find that these medicines help to stop your migraine faster than painkillers alone.
If you deal with nausea when you have a migraine, your doctor may prescribe you anti-nausea medications to help you get the rest you need to get through a migraine attack.
In addition to pharmaceutical treatments, there are some at-home remedies that many people find helpful for alleviating migraine symptoms. Lying down in a quiet, dark room with a cool cloth on your head may help with symptoms. Some people also find that stress reduction techniques (like deep breathing) can help to alleviate migraine symptoms.
Make a difference: Participate in migraine research with Evidation
At Evidation, we're proud to be the link between our community and the betterment of healthcare. When you agree to participate in research, you're making a difference in medical care and treatment development. Join our community today to play a part in advancing the future of healthcare.