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What Causes Migraines?

A migraine is an intense headache that can cause throbbing, or a pulsing sensation, in an area of you head…it basically feels like your heartbeat has migrated upwards to your head.  It’s not comfortable at all.  Unfortunately too, migraines are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to both light and sound.  Therefore, if you’re in a room that is bright and loud, your migraine will seem to be that much worse.  The pain that migraines cause can last for hours to days, and it can even hurt so much that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to rest until the pain subsides.

Some individuals will notice that their migraines follow the same pattern and are preceded by an aura (an event that signals to them that a migraine is coming on).  An aura can be anything from flashes of light to tingling in the arm or leg that signals another migraine is coming on.

What Causes Migraines?

The specific cause of migraines is not currently understood.  Most likely, genetics and factors in the environment play a strong role in their development.  Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem area and how it interacts with the trigeminal nerve, which is a major pain pathway in the human body.  Also, imbalances in brain chemicals may also be a culprit to the development of migraines.  Specifically, a chemical known as serotonin that is responsible for regulating pain levels within your nervous system.  The levels of serotonin during a migraine attack decrease, so if there aren’t enough chemicals to regulate the pain, it will result in more pain for you and possibly a migraine.

What Triggers a Migraine?

  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Fluctuations in estrogen levels seem to trigger headaches in this specific population.
  • Hormonal medications such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may either make migraines better or worse.
  • Certain foods
  • Aged cheeses, salty foods and processed foods may all trigger migraines.
  • If you skip meals, or decide to fast…that can also trigger attacks.
  • Drinks
  • Alcohol and other beverages that are highly caffeinated may trigger migraines.
  • Abnormal sleeping habits
  • Missing out on too much sleep or even getting too much sleep can both trigger a migraine.
  • Physical factors.
  • Physical exertion that is more intense than an individual is used to can trigger a migraine.
  • Stress
  • Weather changes

Once you approach your healthcare provider and explain your situation with the development of migraine headaches and you are definitively diagnosed, a treatment plan will be implemented for your specific case.  Migraines cannot be cured; however there are ways to manage your symptoms and condition.  Generally, medications to help treat migraines fall into two categories:  pain-relieving medications and preventive medications.

Pain-relieving medications are the ones that are taken during your migraine attack with the goal of stopping symptoms of your headache that have already begun. The migraine caplets on the right are great to relieve your pain.

 

Preventive medications on the other hand are those that are taken regularly, usually on a daily basis, with the goal of reducing the severity and/or frequency of future migraine attacks.

Possible Treatment Options

  • Pain relievers.
  • Includes medications such as aspirin, Advil, Motrin and Tylenol which are best to relieve mild migraine pain.
  • Also includes migraine-specific medications that can be purchased over the counter, such as Excedrin Migraine that may help to ease moderate migraine pain.
  • Triptan medication.
  • Works by tightening blood vessels and blocking the pain pathways in the brain.
  • Medications may include such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) and almotriptan (Axert).
  • May cause nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and weakness.
  • Not recommended if you are at an increased risk of stroke and/or heart attack.
  • Ergot medication.
  • Ergotamine and caffeine combination medications are less effective than Triptans.
  • Most effective with pain that lasts for more than 48 hours.
  • Include medications such as Migergot and Cafergot.
  • Anti-nausea medication.
  • Migraines are usually accompanied by nausea, so being medicated for this complication could make your attack slightly more tolerable.
  • Medications include those such as Reglan and chlorpromazine.
  • Opioid medications.
  • Contain narcotics such as codeine and usually used for those who cannot take Triptans or ergot medications.
  • They are habit-forming and are usually only used as a last resort.

Preventive medications may also be used for this condition, depending upon how your signs and symptoms present themselves.  Preventive medications can reduce the frequency, severity and length of migraines and may also increase the effectiveness of other medications that are being used during migraine attacks.

 

Ultimately, migraines should not be taken lightly because if left untreated over an extended time period, the pain that an individual is caused may begin to interfere with the daily routine…so do not ignore signs and symptoms, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Since 1997 Allegro Medical has been a leading supplier of migraine and headache supplies to healthcare providers and consumers.  If you are suffering from a migraine or headache, rely on AllegroMedical.com for all of your migraine needs.

Dan works in Product Management at Allegro Medical with a focus on providing new and empowering products that help customers improve their quality of life.