Thunder and Lightning: Why Migraines Occur & How to Help Yourself During an Attack

A headache is not always “drank a pill – and it went away.” There are also migraines, which often act destructively, interfering with work, study and routine household chores.

Migraine is recognized by WHO as the sixth leading cause of loss of years in the world due to disability.

What is a migraine

Migraine is a moderate to severe, usually throbbing headache that is concentrated on one side of the head.

There are three main types of migraine: migraine with aura (when it is clear that an attack is about to happen), migraine without aura (when the attack comes on suddenly), and silent migraine (when there are migraine symptoms or aura but no actual headache).

If a person suffers from migraines, this does not mean that headaches happen every day.

Although pain can indeed occur up to several times a week, there are cases when years pass between attacks. But in any case, it will be exactly a migraine with its characteristic symptoms, and not something else.

Why migraine occurs

The causes of migraine are still not fully understood. But scientists agree that most migraines are caused by genetics: So far, six gene variants have been identified that cause migraines without aura, a type of migraine that affects 12% of the population and accounts for more than 60% of all migraines.

Additional risk factors would be a family history of migraines, age under 30, and gender, as migraines are three times more common in women than in men.

It is also important to talk about migraine triggers – those things that can provoke it.

In women, for example, migraines can occur under the influence of fluctuations in the hormone estrogen: during menstruation, during pregnancy and at menopause.

Migraines are triggered by stress, sleep disturbances (when there is little or too much), intense physical activity (including sex), sensory stimuli (from too bright indoor lights to t

Some people react to drinks (alcohol and coffee), foods (aged cheeses, overly salty and processed foods such as sausages, sausages, bacon) and food additives (the sweetener aspartame and monosodium glutamate).

Others note a reaction to weather fluctuations. Triggers include a number of medications, including oral contraceptives and drugs that dilate blood vessels.

How to understand that it is a migraine

Migraines usually develop in four stages, although it is important to note that not all people with migraine go through each stage.

It all starts with a prodromal phase – a period a couple of days before a migraine, which, as it were, warns that it will happen.

Some people at this time experience constipation, mood swings, food cravings (not necessarily high-calorie, may just be unusual or in large quantities), stiffness in the neck, frequent urination, or, conversely, swelling due to fluid retention in the body.

The second stage is the aura, which may occur shortly before the migraine or when the migraine has already begun. Usually these are visual effects, such as various shapes, bright spots or flashes in front of the eyes.

But there may also be blurred vision, tingling in the arms or legs, numbness of the face on one side, and difficulty formulating words. The aura lasts from several minutes to an hour.

Then comes the attack – the actual migraine attack, which lasts from four to 72 hours, if nothing is done.

During a migraine, there may be throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, increased sensitivity to light and sound, smells and touch, as well as nausea and vomiting.

Finally, the postdromal phase begins – a feeling of devastation, exhaustion, the person seems to be confused.

Sometimes people, on the contrary, report high spirits, but this happens less frequently. The postdromal phase can last up to a day, and during this time, a sharp movement of the head can again cause a short migraine attack.

All this is not like an ordinary headache, since the symptoms, with the exception of the pain itself, are quite specific, more pronounced, and last longer. So, even if you skip any of the stages, you can suspect a migraine.

When is it time to see a doctor

The main problem with migraine is that the pejorative stereotype “oh, she has migraines” is very common in popular culture.

At this moment, they usually show a woman in luxurious clothes, who, lounging on an equally luxurious sofa, puts a cool towel on her head.

In real life, very often there is no time for application – I want to drown out the pain as soon as possible, or at least find myself in complete silence and darkness so that not a single external stimulus resounds in my head with thunderclaps.

Unfortunately, migraine very often goes undiagnosed for a long time and is not treated in a timely manner precisely because few people know about its symptoms.

A timely appeal to a neurologist is a guarantee that it will be possible to either reduce the frequency and strength of migraines, or even get rid of them for a long time.

Therefore, the correct answer to the question “When is it time to see a doctor?” Will sound like this: “At the first suspicion of a migraine.”

What is the treatment for migraine

It is believed that the most ancient of the ways to treat migraine is trepanation – the removal of bone from the skull by scraping, sawing, drilling or chiselling.

At the same time, modern scientists do not know for sure whether their “senior colleagues” really used this terrible method. But it’s good at least that now much more gentle methods are in use.

Medicine does not stand still and is constantly evolving.
And the ways to help with migraines have gone far beyond the classic painkillers that help stop the attack here and now, but in general are not recommended for regular use to avoid addiction.

Today, five types of drugs are used to treat seizures:

The first is drugs based on monoclonal antibodies that can block the activity of CGRP (calcitonin related peptide gene). At one time, the discovery of the peptide was a real breakthrough in migraine therapy.

The second is β-blockers, which are usually used to treat heart rhythm disorders, angina pectoris, arterial hypertension, but are effective for migraines too.

The third is anti-epileptic drugs, which are supposed to reduce the hyperexcitability of the cerebral cortex, due to which migraine is easier.

The fourth is antidepressants, which cope well with various types of pain syndromes, including migraine attacks. The fifth is Botox injections into the muscle groups of the neck and head.

There are also alternative treatments for migraines.

One of the most scientifically based among them is cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches a person to manage pain. And for some, acupuncture or taking vitamin B2, coenzyme Q10, and magnesium helps.

How to help yourself

The best way to help yourself with the first symptoms of a migraine is to go to a quiet, dark room. If it works, sleep, if not, just close your eyes.

You can put a cloth-wrapped bag of ice or vegetables from the freezer on your head. And do not forget to drink water, it also gives relief.

If you suffer from migraines, it’s important to make lifestyle changes that can make your attacks less frequent.

First of all, strictly observe the sleep and nutrition regimen and follow the schedule even on weekends when you want to sleep longer or have breakfast later.

Find ways to relax that work for you: meditation, warm baths, aromatherapy. And exercise regularly, but better than something measured: yoga, Pilates, walking, swimming.

To keep track of your triggers, it’s helpful to keep a migraine diary.

When you can, write down everything you remember: what preceded the migraine, when it started and how long it lasted, what you did to reduce the symptoms, and what ended up helping.

So it turns out, as far as possible, to avoid dangerous situations, and at the same time to determine the most effective methods of dealing with migraine.

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