Do you know the difference between migraines and headaches? Do you know what causes migraines? Do you know what medication to take? Below is a simple guide to understanding migraines and how to cope with them.
What is a migraine?
In short, it’s a very bad headache that can be debilitating and can affect your nervous and sensory systems. It is believed that a migraine is the result of a person’s blood vessels enlarging in combination with the release of the nerve fiber chemicals that are linked to the mentioned blood vessels. It’s usually one sided and non-symmetrical, characterized by throbbing and pulsing pain.
How do migraines differ from a regular headaches?
When you have a migraine you normally experience sensory reaction as well. These reactions can include eye sight disturbances like seeing flashes of light or blind spots and general sensitivity to light. You may also experience sensitivity to sounds, nausea and vomiting. You may also experience tingling in your arms and legs. These sensory issues don’t occur with a regular headache. A regular headache is more symmetrical and confined to the head.
Causes of migraines
Migraines can run in the family. It’s thought that over half of people with migraines also have family members who suffer from migraines.
Migraines are more common in women and can be linked to environmental factors like physical & emotional stress, environmental and food allergies, excess smoking and drinking and light sensitivity.
Migraines can also be linked to hormones. This normally happens if you have an irregular menstrual cycle, are using the contraceptive pill or are approaching/going through menopause. Women with low progesterone can be prone to migraines so it could be a sign of an underlying problem.
Most migraine sufferers can find the trigger for their migraines quite easily- keep a migraine diary.
If you can’t identify with any of these causes then ask your Dr for some tests. Your migraines could be a sign of an underlying condition.
Drugs that can help
Relpax, Imitrex and Amerge are some of the newer anti-migraine medications, these medications need to be taken at the onset of an attack or they will not be effective. There are also regular anti-inflammatory and pain relievers like Naproxen, Ibuprofen and Excedrin that can help as well.
Side effects of Migraine drugs
Relpax side effects – Common side effects include feeling dizzy and tired, nausea, abdominal cramps and pain in the neck, jaw and chest. Extreme side effects include coronary malfunctions like heart attack, stroke, abnormal heart beats, seizures and internal bleeding.
Imitrex side effects – common side effects include dizziness, sweating, nasal irritation, tingling, flushing, chest pain, tightness in the throat and general weakness. If you have a history of high blood pressure this medication may elevate it so use a different medication instead.
Amerge side effects – common side effects include general weakness, tingling, dizziness, drowsiness and flushing. Serious reactions, that can lead to further health issues, include chest pain, pain in your jaw or left arm, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, changes in eyesight, weakness on one side of the body only, slurred speech, severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.
Saul’s tips to help you overcome migraines naturally
With the help of a migraine diary you can work out what the triggers are. The diary should include severity and occurrence.
Once you know the triggers, you can alter your lifestyle to avoid them. This should help reduce the frequency of the migraines but it might not eliminate them altogether.
You might achieve a better rate of reduction by making sure that you follow a light exercise regime and eat a balanced healthy diet. When you skip meals or eat too much junk food it can lead to a migraine.
Reducing stress levels and making sure you get enough sleep can also help.
Try going into a dark room with a cold pack on your eyes or head.
For more tips on avoiding and coping with migraines you can have a look at this article on Seven Techniques for Overcoming Migraine Headaches.