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What is Migraine?
We all get Headaches. But, if your headaches make negatively affect your work or school, then it might be time for you to visit a doctor. Not everyone experiencing sharp, throbbing or dull aching head pain (aka, headache) needs to see a doctor or use special medications. However, if headaches start to interfere with your daily activities and quality of life, then the cause of your headaches has to be sought.
- It usually interferes with one's ability to work and enjoy daily activities
- Migraine is a moderate to severe type of headache
- Potent, safe and effective treatments are available
What is the difference between Migraine and Headache?
Everyone can get a headache, but not every headache is a migraine. Unlike common headache, migraine pain tends to be moderate, severe or very severe. The migraine pain attack can last for a few days, and each attack is usually preceded by alarming symptoms (aura).
Migraine pain is defined as being 'throbbing', and usually involves just one side of the head.
The highest incidence of migraine attacks occurs in the middle age group patients between 35 and 45 years old.
Migraine tends to target mainly young, healthy females in their reproductive years. Statics show that migraine affects females nearly three folds more than males, that about 40% of women are under time-life risk of getting a migraine (compared to only 18% of men), and that around 1 in 6 individuals around the world has a migraine.
Causes and Risk factors for Migraine
There are no definitive causes of migraine. Migraine is attributed to the presence of multiple causes and triggers (genetics, environmental, psychological, dietary), rather than a single factor.
Studies of migraine incidence show that if one of two twins suffers from migraine, the other has a risk ranging from 30% to 50% for developing a migraine. This suggests that genetic factors play a role in the initiation or worsening of the disease, as twins have the same exact genes. In the same way, if you have a family history for migraine, then you are at increased risk.
Attacks of a sharp headache for people with migraine may increase significantly if the patient is subjected to stress, hunger, or fatigue. However, this varies from one patient to another.
Dietary trigger for Migraine
The direct dietary trigger for your migraine can be difficult to identify. However, the common dietary triggers include caffeine, chocolate, aged cheese and meats, spicy foods, alcohol, MSG, citrus fruits, and foods/drinks containing aspartame.
How to diagnose Migraine?
Migraine is diagnosed mainly by history and symptoms, as migraine headache usually occurs with no clear underlying cause. Blood tests, CT, MRI, or lumbar puncture may be recommended by your doctor to detect any suspected abnormality that worsens the headache, like infection, tumours, or bleeding in the brain.
Your doctors look for the frequency of the attacks, whether they are preceded with aura or not, pain intensity, presence or absences of pulsating pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to lights or sounds.
The Symptoms of Migraine
The main symptom of migraine is a severe headache that gets worse if you try to carry out your normal activities, including work. Typical migraine headache is unilateral, meaning you only feel the pain on one side of your head. However, a migraine headache can also affect both sides of the head.
Classic Migraine attacks occur in three stages:
Which normally occurs hours to days before the attack.
It is characterized by symptoms like drowsiness, fatigue, hunger, or thirst.
Which directly precedes the headache. It’s a neurological phenomenon which consists of visual changes (like the scintillating scotoma, which is a transient spot deficit in vision field which interferes with the usual activities like reading). Some cases of aura are characterized by other types of changes, like auditory hallucinations, tingling and numbness, or loss of position sense.
The Pain attack
The pain starts in the temple or around the eye and spreads to involve the whole side of the head. The pain is of throbbing nature, increases with bright light or loud sounds, and passes away with sleep.
The pain lasts for several hours or days and is associated with nausea (and occasionally vomiting), pallor and coldness of the face and limbs. This stage usually resolves in less than 3 days if left untreated. Frequency, severity, triggers, response to medications, and the presence of pulsating pain vary from one patient to another.
Note that only 15-30% of migraine headaches are preceded by an aura, while the rest occur spontaneously without any warning before. Moreover, sometimes the aura occurs with no migraine after, which is known as 'silent headache'.
After the attack ends, most patients experience a hangover, mood changes, abdominal disorders, weakness, or cognitive difficulties.
How to take Sumatriptan?
Sumatriptan is taken by mouth. Only one tablet is taken at the first sign of migraine. If no improvement after 2 hours from taking the first tablet, then may take a second one.
How long does it take for Sumatriptan pill to kick in?
Sumatriptan is a quick-acting anti-migraine medication. It acts rapidly within just 30 minutes after oral administration.
Can migraine be cured permanently?
Since migraine has no definitive cause, there is no 'cure' for migraine. However, migraine can be 'treated' and managed using safe and effective medications available, that work to decrease its frequency and pain intensity.
Can Sumatriptan prevent migraine?
Sumatriptan is a 'pain killer' that is used exclusively for treating the pain of migraine. Therefore, if you are not experience migraine pain or symptoms of migraine aura, then there is no point of taking Sumatriptan pills. No matter how many pills you take, it will not prevent the next migraine.
What is cluster headache? Can Sumatriptan treat cluster headache?
Cluster headaches are attacks of severe agonizing pain starting on one side of the head around the eye and frontal region, and spreading gradually to the same side of the head and neck.
Cluster headaches are usually associated with conjunctival redness, excessive tears, and nasal discharge.
Unlike migraine, cluster headache attacks are brief (minutes to hours) and affect middle-aged males mainly (90%).
The attacks occur in regular 'clusters', i.e. every 24 hours for a few weeks or months. Each cluster is followed by 6-12 months, during which the patient is completely free of symptoms.
Sumatriptan is among the most effective ways to treat cluster headaches.
What can you do to prevent attacks?
Naturopathic approaches like acupuncture, massage, relaxation, and physiotherapy can decrease the frequency of migraine attacks.
Simple lifestyle modifications can improve your migraine, and decrease its frequency. These modifications include getting enough sleep, avoiding physical and mental stress, adjusting home illumination so it doesn’t trigger your migraine, avoiding noise, practicing meditation or yoga, and taking notes about your headache that helps you know more about what are the triggers for your migraine.
What are other drugs available for treating migraine?
Drugs like Propranonol and Pizotifin are used between the attacks to prevent new migraine attacks.
These drugs are used only if the attacks occur two or more times per month, or if the migraine is complicated by some serious neurological signs.
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