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A healthier mind - Allay your fears and move ahead
By Themedica on December 12, 2007 5:31 AM |
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themedica The painful pounding in your head for a period of four to seventy two hours or more could be ‘migraine’ which many of us are not aware of. And it can even last for many days also. Recently, findings at Massachusetts General Hospital has revealed that the cortex, which is the intricate part of the brain that helps in processing sensations, is around 21 percent thicker than in the normal human being. Although, the cause of migraine is still not known but patients who are suffering from this syndrome are also prone to back ache and allodynia.
Migraine headaches usually occurs when serotinin, a brain chemical, which when released into the blood, leads to further chemical and blood vessel changes in the brain. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, depression, lethargy, photosensitivity, aura, visual disturbances, and sometimes sensitivity to smell are some of the known symptoms of this disorder. Migraine headaches are itself very intense and even a slight movement can worsen the situation.

Migraine headache is caused by a combination of vasodilatation (enlargement of blood vessels) and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the blood vessels. During a migraine attack, the temporal artery enlarges. (The temporal artery is an artery that lies on the outside of the skull just under the skin of the temple.) Enlargement of the temporal artery stretches the nerves that coil around the artery and causes the nerves to release chemicals. The chemicals cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. The increasing enlargement of the artery magnifies the pain. A migraine headache is a form of vascular headache.

Fig. Migrain & Functioning of Brain

This syndrome can affect anyone from babies to the elderly. No one knows why migraine happens but the list of possible triggers could be tension, stress, tiredness, hormonal changes, mineral imbalances, flashy lights, changes in weather conditions, chemicals, skipping meals, certain foods like chocolates, citrus fruits, cheese and caffeine. A typical attack lasts between 4 and 72 hours. An estimated 40%-60% of migraine attacks are preceded by premonitory (warning) symptoms lasting hours to days. The symptoms may include sleepiness, irritability, fatigue, depression or euphoria, yawning, and cravings for sweet or salty foods. Patients and their family members usually know that when they observe these warning symptoms that a migraine attack is beginning.

Fig. Common Sources of Migraine/Headache

Migraine headache is also aggravated by daily activities like walking upstairs, boating, swimming, telephone,radio,nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, facial pallor, cold hands, cold feet, and sensitivity to light and sound commonly accompany migraine headaches. As a result of this sensitivity to light and sound, migraine sufferers usually prefer to lie in a quiet, dark room during an attack.
Fig. Major Migration Contributor

Whenever you spot some warning signs, then jot down your food habits for a couple of months. Maintaining a diary of your head pain could alert you to an approaching attack. Even writing down the time of pain, its duration, severity, symptoms can prove to be helpful for your doctor to diagnose whether your consistent headaches are the form of migraine attack or not. Only an experienced physician can identify the reason of your headache and rule out the root cause of it.

Migraine headaches are the second most common type of primary headache. An estimated 28 million people in the United States (about 12% of the population) will experience migraine headaches. Below is the rough estimation of Persons with and without migraine headache :

Migraine headaches affect children as well as adults. Before puberty, boys and girls are affected equally by migraine headaches, but after puberty, more women than men are affected. An estimated 6% of men and up to 18% of women will experience a migraine.

Fig. Migraine and Days of Week

There is no cure for migraine. Migraine is often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Nevertheless, there are innumerable ways to zap up this malady. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin can be taken to lessen the pain. Half of the sufferers can get relief by consuming these painkillers. However, there are migraine specific drugs such as triptans in the form of tablets, injections, nasal sprays or dissolvable wafers can be taken only after doctor recommendation. If your headache is severe, then you can apply pressure to specific positions in the ear could ease migraine pains. Light therapy can also be another alternative for alleviating migraine attack. These measures should consider the various aspects of the particular patient's condition. Triggering factors, nerve inflammation, blood vessel changes and pain are each addressed aggressively. Individualizing treatment is essential for optimal outcome.

Besides medications, you can also try out some other non-drug treatments like physiotherapy, relaxation therapy, hormone replacement theory and acupuncture to treat this type of headache. Wearing tinted glasses while working and dental split can also work wonders for some.


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