Migraine Headaches - Migraine Symptoms, Treatments & Causes | Advil

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Migraine

Male smiling after being pain free from headache

Migraine Headaches

Migraines affect more than three million Australians, with more than half of those suffering from the condition being female.1 It is a common yet debilitating condition that can often go undiagnosed and untreated for extended periods of time.2,3

The frequency of migraines can differ between people and they can increase or decrease in frequency over time.4 Changing hormones can affect migraine, especially during other stages in adulthood where the hormones can also influence the frequency and severity of migraines.5 Depending on the person, a migraine may occur recurrently over weeks, years or decades. 6

How do I know if I have a migraine?

Migraines are a neurological disorder and they can be debilitating to someone’s daily life.7 Migraines are complex and someone who is suffering from the condition can experience a variety of symptoms for up to 4 - 72 hours.8 Some of the main migraine symptoms include:9,10

  • One sided pain
  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Throbbing
  • Aggravated movement
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

Other migraine symptoms may include:11

  • Difficulty in concentrating, confusion
  • Problems with articulation and co-ordination
  • Stiffness of the neck and shoulders
  • Speech disturbance

How do I know if I have a headache?

A headache is one of the most common symptoms experienced by humans.12 A headache is a pain or discomfort in the head region - around the face, neck, forehead, scalp or behind the eyes. There can be a range of causes of a headache including:13

  • Tightness in the muscles of the shoulders and neck
  • Life style factors:
    • stress
    • over use of computers
    • poor posture
  • Tooth/dental pain
  • Eye problems

There are various types of headaches and, like a migraine, headaches affect each person differently. One of the most common headaches is the tension type headache.14 Due to the nature of these headaches, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can be more useful than simple analgesics.15

Unlike a migraine, a common tension headache is milder and the pain resonates on both sides of the head in a pressing or tightening sensation.16 A common headache cannot be aggravated by activity and nausea is not a symptom.17

It is important to consult your pharmacist or doctor when treating your headache, especially if the pain persists and worsens.

What causes a migraine?

The true cause of migraines is still not known, however, it is believed that migraines are caused by a disturbance between the brain and the blood vessels in that region. The brain deploys certain neurotransmitters that are linked to a hypersensitive state. The brain then reacts and creates a bombardment of sensory impulses which causes the sensitivity to light and aura symptoms.18

There is also a genetic component to migraines, leaving those with family members who experience migraines at an increased risk of the condition. 19

What triggers a migraine?

Migraine triggers are often varied and differ from person to person. It is hard to identify one trigger, as it normally is a combination of a few. Some triggers can include: 20

  • Dietary triggers (caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, dehydration)
  • Environmental triggers (lights, small, travel, loud sounds, weather, computers)
  • Hormonal triggers
  • Physical and emotional triggers (lack of sleep or oversleeping, illness, back and neck pain, exercise, relaxation after stress)

How many stages are there in a migraine?

There are five stages of a migraine – prodromol, aura, attack, resolution and postdromol. 21

Prodromol

Prodromol refers to the period just before the onset of a migraine. This phase can be experienced anywhere between 12-24 hours before the migraine begins. 22 People may notice slight changes in symptoms at this stage such as: 23

  • Mood changes
  • Gut symptoms: constipation, food cravings, lack of appetite, diarrhoea
  • Neurological changes: drowsiness, incessant yawning, dysphasia, dislike of light and sound, difficulty in eye focus
  • Behavioural changes: hyperactivity, obsessional, clumsy, lethargic
  • Muscular changes: general aches and pains
  • Fluid balance changes: thirst, passing more fluid, fluid retention
Aura

The second stage is the aura phase. A migraine aura refers to the sensory disturbances that someone might experience before or during a migraine.24,25 These temporary symptoms often affect the sufferer’s vision, touch or smell.26,27

There are two types of auras that can be experienced prior to a migraine. The first type of migraine aura is a visual disturbance which can include flickering lights and blurred/zig zag vision.28 Flashing lights, shapes and spots and blurred vision are all common symptoms of a migraine in the aura phase.29

The second type of migraine aura is known as paresthesia, which is when someone in this phase experiences pins and needles, uncontrollable jolts or other movements or numb skin. 30

Attack

The third stage is when the migraine actually occurs. Migraines vary from moderate to severe pain and it often varies in intensity from person to person.31 The attack can be to one side of the body, with the pain often radiating from the back of the head moving forward.32,33

There are a range of symptoms that people suffering from a migraine experience that those who have a common headache don’t experience. The range of symptoms in this phase include: 34

  • Fatigue
  • Morning sickness
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness and extreme weakness
  • Throbbing
  • Pulsating pain
Resolution

At this stage, the migraine pain begins to wear off, however, symptoms experienced in the prodromal phase can come back.35 The resolution to the migraine differs from person to person. Sleep or vomiting can be a restorative option for some to release the pain of the migraine.36 For others, effective

    medication can help improve attacks.37 If you are considering taking medication to help with your migraine, consult your pharmacist or doctor on the best management options.

    Postdromol

    Postdromol is the final stage of a migraine and it occurs after the migraine attack. People are often sensitive to sound and light in the phase and they can sometimes feel drained for 24 hours after the migraine. 38,39

    Types of Migraines

    Migraines can be separated into two different types – migraines with an aura, and migraines without an aura. The difference between the two types of migraines is dependent on the presence (or not) of the aura phase prior to the migraine.40

    What are the available migraine treatments?

    There is no cure for migraines but there are a number of migraine treatments that can help you reduce their severity and frequency. Migraine treatments may include trigger tracking, medication and complementary therapy. These are all common methods to help relieve the pain associated with migraines. 41

    Migraine Tracker

    A migraine tracker can help highlight and understand the triggers that might increase the chances of a migraine.42 By avoiding the triggers that initiate a migraine, the likelihood of experiencing another migraine can be minimized.

    Medication

    There are two types of migraine treatment – acute migraine treatment and preventative migraine treatment.

    Acute migraine treatment is infrequent. The chances of the over-the-counter medications being effective are a lot higher for acute migraines. There are various over the counter medications that

    assist in the successful treatment of headaches, complex migraines and their accompanying symptoms. These include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen which may help with some of the migraine symptoms, but don’t necessarily resolve the underlying migraine.44

    Preventative migraine treatment is taken daily regardless of whether or not a headache or migraine is present. This reduces the risk of a severe or frequent migraine.45 If you are considering taking medication, please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist.

    Complementary Therapy

    A wide range of complementary therapies exist that can help relieve the symptoms of a migraine. Acupuncture, homeopathy, meditation, osteopathy and yoga are all methods to may help subdue the severity and frequency of a migraine.46

    How can I prevent a migraine from occurring?

    Migraines can be prevented.47 By understanding your migraine causes as well as the preventative migraine medication options, the condition can be monitored and managed.

    Lifestyle factors are often migraine triggers and it is important to understand them. By doing this, you may prevent migraines from reoccurring.

    Preventative migraine medications can reduce the frequency of migraines but they can also reduce the intensity and duration of the attack.48

    Other options to prevent migraines include:49

    • Muscle relaxation
    • Massage therapy
    • Rest
    • Herbs, vitamins and minerals

    References:

    1. 1 Headache Australia, tension-type headaches, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/
    2. 2 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    3. 3 Headache Australia, Migraine, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/
    4. 4 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    5. 5 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    6. 6 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    7. 7 Headache Australia, Migraine, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/
    8. 8 Headache Australia, Migraine, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/
    9. 9 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    10. 10 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    11. 11 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    12. 12 Headache Australia, tension-type headaches, [Accessed 21 December 2017]http://headacheaustralia.org.au/what-is-headache/
    13. 13 Better Health Victoria, Headache, [Accessed 22 December 2017] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/headache
    14. 14NPS Australia, Tension-type headache, [Accessed 22 December 2017]http://www.nps.org.au/conditions/nervous-system-problems/pain/for-individuals/pain-conditions/headache/for-individuals/tension-headache
    15. 15Health Direct, Pain relief medicines, [Accessed 21 December 2017] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/pain-relief-medicines
    16. 16 Headache Australia, tension-type headaches, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/what-is-headache/
    17. 17 Headache Australia, tension-type headaches, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/what-is-headache/
    18. 18 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    19. 19 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    20. 20Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    21. 21 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    22. 22 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    23. 23Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    24. 24Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    25. 25 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    26. 26Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    27. 27 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    28. 28 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    29. 29 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    30. 30 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    31. 31 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    32. 32Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    33. 33Headache Australia, Headache Australia Fact Sheet, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/V2208_BF_Headache_Australia_Week_8pp_A5_ZFold_V3.pdf
    34. 34 Headache Australia, Headache Australia Fact Sheet, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/V2208_BF_Headache_Australia_Week_8pp_A5_ZFold_V3.pdf
    35. 35 Headache Australia, Headache Australia Fact Sheet, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/V2208_BF_Headache_Australia_Week_8pp_A5_ZFold_V3.pdf
    36. 36 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    37. 37 Headache Australia, Migraine – A common and distressing disorder, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    38. 38 Headache Australia, tension-type headaches, [Accessed 21 December] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/migraine/migraine-a-common-and-distressing-disorder/
    39. 39 Mayo Clinic, Symptoms and Causes, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434
    40. 40 Headache Australia, Headache Australia Fact Sheet, [Accessed 21 December 2017] http://headacheaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/V2208_BF_Headache_Australia_Week_8pp_A5_ZFold_V3.pdf
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