Migraine Headaches: Causes, Treatment & Symptoms

A migraine is a neurological disorder characterised by a severe headache that can last for hours or even days. It causes a throbbing or pulsating pain, typically in the forehead, the sides of the head or around the eyes. The pain gets intensified due to any movement, activity, bright light, or loud noise. Nausea and vomiting are commonly experienced during a migraine. A number of factors can increase the risk of having a migraine including routine physical activity, strong odours, stress, loud noises, low blood sugar., tobacco, anxiety or even coughing or sneezing.


What are the stages of migraine?


Migraine symptoms can vary among individuals, often occurring in stages. Here's a breakdown of these stages:



The first phase of migraine begins one or two days prior to the migraine headache. It is called a prodrome. The subtle changes that many people may feel include:


  • Mood changes from depression to euphoria
  • Constipation
  • Cravings for specific foods
  • Neck stiffness
  • Increased urination
  • Fluid retention
  • Frequent yawning



A migraine with an aura is a severe headache that sometimes occurs before the onset of a migraine headache. Migraine aura symptoms may include temporary visual or other disturbances including:


  • Flashes of light
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Intense head pain
  • Wavy lines that gradually float across the visual field
  • Shimmering spots or stars
  • Numbness


Headache or main attack
The final stage of a migraine headache starts with a dull ache and grows into a throbbing pain. The pain can shift from one side of the head to the other, manifest in the front region or a sensation affecting the entire head. It is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The headache can last for nearly four hours and the severe ones can go for more than three days. It is common for individuals to experience two to four headaches in a month. The symptoms may include:


  • Intense throbbing pain
  • Pain that worsens with physical activity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision or blind spots
  • Being bothered by light, noise, or odours
  • Feeling tired and/or confused
  • Stuffy nose
  • Feeling cold or sweaty
  • Stiff or tender neck



The postdrome stage last between 1-2 days. It’s often called a migraine “hangover” and 80 percent of those who have migraines experience it.


What causes migraines?


The exact causes of migraine remains unclear, though a number of factors are speculated to be behind it. One such factor is high levels of serotonin, a key body chemical that influences blood vessels. While high serotonin levels result in blood vessel constriction, low levels lead to dilation (swelling), resulting in pain. Reports suggest that women are more likely to have chronic migraines and this is likely linked to hormones.


How are migraines diagnosed?


To get a complete picture, the doctor may ask you about your medical history and the symptoms you are experiencing. In addition, the doctor may perform a physical exam. In cases of uncommon or rapidly intensifying conditions, your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as:


An MRI Scan: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the brain and blood vessels, aiding in the diagnosis of tumors, strokes, brain bleeding, infections, and various neurological conditions.


A CT scan: It uses X-rays to create pictures of the head, including the skull, brain, eye sockets, and sinuses. It helps the doctor to determine conditions like head injuries, severe headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms of aneurysm, bleeding, stroke, and brain tumors.


In conclusion, a migraine is much more than a bad headache. It is a complex neurological disorder, often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances. The stages of a migraine include prodrome, aura, headache or main attack, and postdrome, each with distinctive features and symptoms. 


Disclaimer: The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It is important to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



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