Have you ever experienced a severe throbbing pain in your head which at times hampers your daily routine? You could have been suffering from one of the most common neurological disorders that manifests itself in the form of pulsing sensations of varying intensity usually limited to one side of the head. A migraine headache that is usually preceded by classic warning symptoms are triggered by certain food and drink, physical or mental stress and at times hormonal changes. Simply put, a migraine is a neurological condition that causes debilitating headaches and is accompanied by symptoms like nausea, difficulty in speech, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. It is often more commonly diagnosed in women but can affect all age groups.
What does a migraine attack feel like?
The severity of an episode of migraine can range from a dull throbbing headache to a point where the person cannot function any longer and perform daily activities. It is important to note that all headaches cannot be termed as migraines, since the pain associated with a migraine can be very distinct. While migraines differ from person to person, a typical migraine can at times last for a few hours to a couple of days.
These severe types of headaches are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. A general headache would usually be resolved with some water or an over-the-counter pain relief medication, which would not work in the case of a full-blown migraine.
How are migraines diagnosed?
Migraines can be diagnosed based on case history and by ruling out similar conditions. Apart from the history of the patient, family history is another risk factor for developing migraines. The exact cause of migraines is still unknown but medically they are thought to be caused due to certain abnormal brain activity that temporarily alters nerve signals and chemicals in the brain. There is no particular test for the diagnosis of migraines but identifying the pattern of recurring headaches coupled with the observed symptoms can aid in the clinical diagnosis of a migraine.
The Neurological Department at Fortis Kalyan has a team of dedicated doctors who are adept in the diagnosis and treatment of migraines. A typical physical examination with the team would include checking your vision, sensations, reflexes and coordination. These steps are extremely useful in eliminating other possible underlying causes of the reported symptoms.
The symptoms of a migraine
Most people who have experienced a migraine at some point or the other in their life, describe it as an excruciating headache that occurs on one side of the head. Many of the commonly observed symptoms begin to occur a day or two before the actual headache itself. This is known as the prodrome stage. These symptoms could be depression, food cravings, irritability, or fatigue.
Another type of migraine occurs after the prodrome stage with an aura. The occurrences of these auras could cause disruptions in your vision, movement and speech. This could lead to difficulty in speech, tingling sensation in the face, arms or legs, flashes or bright spots in the vision and in more severe cases, temporary loss of vision. The stage after the prodrome stage is the attack phase which is the most severe part of the migraine. This phase lasts from a few hours to a few days and can intensify the symptoms. The postdrome phase, which occurs after the attack phase causes mood swings and a dull persisting headache.
As the symptoms vary from person to person, the number of stages experienced can also vary with one or two being skipped.
Treating a migraine
A typical migraine usually lasts for about 4 hours but can persist for up to 72 hours or even a week in extreme cases. While migraines cannot be cured, they can be easily managed to reduce the severity of the attacks. The treatment plan usually depends on the age of the patient, frequency of the migraine attacks, type, and other preexisting medical conditions.
The doctors at Fortis Hospital Kalyan usually recommend lifestyle adjustments like stress management, because it is one of the most common migraine triggers. Avoiding other triggers such as lack of sleep, hunger, alcohol, caffeine and lights and sounds goes a long way in controlling the frequency of migraines. Prescription migraine medication is another useful way to ease the symptoms and severity associated with a migraine attack. If you feel the symptoms of a migraine, try lying down in a quiet and darkroom and massage the sides of your head, placing a cold towel on your forehead or at the back of your neck will give you instant relief.