Migraines are painful, throbbing headaches that can last for hours or even days. The pounding or pulsing pain usually begins in the forehead, the side of the head, or around the eyes. Besides pain, migraines also causes nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound. Some people also may see spots or flashing lights or have a temporary loss of vision.
When you have a migraine, it may be so painful that you are not able to do your usual activities. Migraine can occur any time of the day, though it often starts in the morning. The pain can last a few hours or up to one or two days. Some people get migraines once or twice a week. Others, only once or twice a year. But even though a migraine makes you feel bad, they don’t cause long-term damage.
According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 37 million Americans, mostly between the ages of 15 to 55, suffer from migraines. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
What causes migraines?
Experts are not sure what causes migraines. Most researchers think that migraine is due to abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain.
But it’s not clear what causes this change in brain activity. It’s possible that your genes make you more likely to experience migraines as a result of a specific trigger. There are many different factors that can contribute to your migraines. Not a single thing or event — is more likely to set off an attack.
It is important to note that there is a difference in the causes and the triggers for migraines. A cause is what makes a person susceptible to migraines, while a trigger is what may bring on a migraine.
Some things are more likely to bring on migraines know as triggers. These triggers can vary from person to person and don’t always lead to migraine. A person’s response to triggers also can vary from migraine to migraine. Triggers don’t, however, always cause migraines. Some of these are:
Some women experience migraines around the time of their period. This is possibly because of changes in the levels of hormones such as oestrogen around this time. These type of migraines usually occur between two days before the start of your period to three days after.
Stress and anxiety.
Stress can trigger migraine headaches. Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or work can cause stress. Some people get migraines when stress levels change.
You can also be stressed if you exercise too much or don’t get enough sleep. You should still be active, but you might do better with a more moderate pace.
Certain medicines may trigger migraines. If you think your migraines might be related to your medicine, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
Changes in your sleep pattern.
If you get too much or too little sleep, you may get a migraine. Traveling between time zones? Jet lag can be a cause, too.
If you miss a meal, your blood sugar could drop, triggering a headache.
Triggers in the environment.
Flickering screens, strong smells, second-hand smoke, and loud noises can set off a migraine. Stuffy rooms, temperature changes, and bright lights are also possible triggers.
Infections, such as the cold or the flu, may trigger migraines, especially in children.
Food and drinks.
Certain food and drink (see list below) may cause migraines. Dehydration and dieting or skipping meals may also trigger migraines.
Alcohol and caffeine.
Do you ever get a raging headache after that glass of wine? Alcoholic drinks and drinks high in caffeine can be migraine triggers.
Migraines can also be triggered by certain foods. Most common are:
- Dairy foods, especially certain cheeses
- Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Foods with tyramine, which includes red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and certain beans
- Fruits (avocado, banana, citrus fruit)
- Meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats)
- Peanuts and other nuts and seeds
- Processed, fermented, pickled, or marinated foods
How to prevent migraine attack
While there are no sure ways to keep from having migraine headaches, here are some things that may help:
1. Identifying and avoiding triggers
One of the best ways of preventing migraine headaches is recognising the things that trigger an attack and trying to avoid them. You may find you tend to have a migraine after eating certain foods or when you’re stressed and by avoiding this trigger, you can prevent a migraine.
Keeping a migraine diary can help you identify possible triggers and monitor how well any medication you’re taking is working.
In your migraine diary, try to record:
- the date of the attack
- the time of day the attack began
- any warning signs
- your symptoms (including the presence or absence of aura)
- what medication you took
- when the attack ended
2. Adequate fluid hydration.
This means drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated. Also avoid caffeine, if possible, as caffeine withdrawal is a common trigger of migraine. Be aware that suddenly stopping your caffeine intake could result in a caffeine-withdrawal headache.
3. Regular exercise.
There is good evidence that exercise not only makes our bodies healthier, but it helps our brains, too. People with migraine should exercise four or five times a week for 45 minutes.
4. Proper nutrition.
Avoid skipping meals. In addition, focus on having a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy.
5. Sufficient sleep.
Always strive to get an adequate amount of regular sleep each night to prevent migraine. Avoid playing on your phone or working on the computer an hour before bedtime. The light stimulation can fool your brain’s sleep rhythm and prevent you from falling asleep quickly.
You can reduce your risk of migraine by taking preventive medications. These medicines are taken every day, whether you have a headache or not. In addition, you can also do cognitive behavioral therapy. This can help you better cope with stress and, in turn, lower their likelihood of migraine attacks.
Speak with your healthcare provider to determine the most effective treatment plan for you.