Neurological Conditions

Headache/Migraine

What Is a Migraine?

A migraine is a throbbing headache that usually gets worse on one side of the head. The pain is usually so severe that it interferes with daily activities and can last from 4 hours to 3 days if left untreated. Although more than 1 in 10 Indians, including 1 in 6 women, suffer from migraines, many are mistakenly diagnosed with sinus or tension headaches. hormones, lack of sleep, food, stress and caffeine can trigger migraines.

Migraine Symptoms

Acute pain usually occurs in the temples, lateral side of the eye and forehead. Migraines can be very sensitive to light, noise, or even mild exercise like climbing stairs. Many people experience vision problems, nausea and vomiting. This can make the pain debilitating and may require you to be absent from work or other activities.

Migraine with Aura

Around 20% of people with migraines develop symptoms 20 minutes to an hour before they experience severe and throbbing headache. Flashing lights, blind spots, blurred vision, dots, or wavy lines may appear. This is known as the a "classic migraine" type of headache.

What are the Warning Signs of Migraine?

  • Aura – Migraine sufferer will see dots, wavy lines or flashing lights
  • Muscle tension
  • Frequent yawning
  • Fatigue
  • There is a sense of strange sensation of taste or smell
  • Sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • Mood changes

What Causes a Migraine?

The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but it is believed to be a neurological problem (related to the nervous system). The migraine is thought to be due to problems with the chemicals, blood vessels, and nerves in the brain.

Trigger: Lack of Food or Sleep

It is important for migraine sufferers to eat and sleep regularly. Hypoglycaemia can cause migraines if you skip meals. Excessive sugar consumption can also raise blood sugar levels. To stay hydrated, drink water during the day and sleep for at least 6-8 hours at night.

Trigger: Anxiety and Stress

Emotional stress is a common cause of migraines. Stress cannot be completely avoided, but relaxation techniques and other alternative measures can help. Inhaling and exhaling slowly, filling the air in and then deflating like a balloon will work wonders. Some people find it helpful to imagine about a quiet scene or listen to their favourite music.

Trigger: Flashing Lights

Migraines can be caused by certain factors, such as a noisy sound and flashing lights. Lights may reflect off from snow, water, neon lights, TV screens or movie screens. It is very effective to wear polarized sunglasses outdoors and use fluorescent lighting indoors.

Trigger: Tyramine

Aged, canned foods, fermented and aged foods contain more tyramine, a substance produced by the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. Tyramine can constrict and dilate blood vessels, which can trigger migraines. Some migraine specialists and neurologists recommend restricting the consumption of older fermented foods such peperoni, pickles, soy sauces, cheese, and peppers.

Trigger: Headache Foods

Migraine headaches are often triggered by certain foods. Common culprits include soy sauce, chocolate, cheese, red wine, monosodium glutamate, and processed meats. However, scientific studies have not identified specific foods as the cause of migraines.

Trigger: Hormonal Changes

A majority of the women, have migraines that are associated with the menstrual cycle. Migraines occurs several days before Menstrual cycles or during periods when there is low Estrogen levels. Some women may benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs before they feel migraine headaches.

Caffeine: Help or Hindrance?

Caffeine can lower pain or help in providing relief from pain when used with pain relievers. For most migraines, you can easily drink a cup or two of coffee a day without any issues However, too much caffeine can cause headaches if the arousal effect wears off.

Tracking Personal Triggers

Keep a headache diary to determine the cause of the migraine. If you have a migraine, look for warning signs (“prodrome”), migraine triggers, and severity of the symptoms. Finding personal triggers can help prevent future headaches.

Who Gets Migraines?

Women are 3 times more likely to develop migraines compared to men and children. If you have a relative who suffers from migraines, you are more likely to develop migraines too. Neurologists and scientists believe migraines to be associated with mutations in genes that affect certain parts of the brain. Migraines are also common in people with anxiety, depression, asthma, epilepsy, stroke, neuropathy, or other genetic, neurological and hereditary disorders.

Migraine headaches in Children

Around five percent of children with headaches suffer from migraines. Both girls and boys can experience migraines, but after puberty, girls experience migraines more often than boys. Children may have other symptoms besides the headache, such as frequent, severe vomiting (intermittent vomiting) and abdominal pain (migraine). If the child is trembling, pale, restless, has involuntary eye movements or vomiting, the child may develop a form of migraine called benign paroxysmal vertigo.

Diagnosing Migraine

An experienced neurologist or a migraine specialist doctor diagnoses migraine primarily based on the symptoms. The neurologist however recommends a brain scan (CT or MRI scan) to rule out the other causes of headaches such as epilepsy, brain stroke, brain tumours, brain haemorrhage or brain aneurysms.