The author of this article is not a doctor, this article is meant to be educational. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of a migraine please contact a doctor.
Ladies, have you ever experienced a never-ending throbbing sensation in your head? Chances are what you are experiencing is a migraine. They vary in intensity and can be temporarily disabling. Migraines are globally ranked as the seventh most disabling disease, experienced by up to 10% of the global population. This article will help identify the symptoms of migraines and the available treatment options.
So, what is a migraine? Migraines are a relatively common and chronic illness “characterized as moderate or severe, one-sided, throbbing and pressure sensation headaches” (Dayapogu & Yildiz, 2017). According to the World Health Organization, migraines are “caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to the release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.” Migraine attacks may occur sporadically and are often considered lifelong conditions. When an attack occurs, the individual will experience a one-sided, pulsating headache. Nausea is a common symptom, as well. The attack may continue on for as long as a few days.. The frequency of attacks varies from a few times a year to an almost weekly occurrence, depending on the individual. Migraines have also been associated with emotional and psychiatric issues. High psychiatric comorbidity is also linked to migraines. This means that two or more disorders coexist and impact an individual’s life.
Migraines are more common in women than in men. The World Health Organization revealed research indicating a 2:1 female to male ratio for the number of migraine cases reported. The primary reason for increased migraines in women stems from hormonal influences. Women’s fluctuating estrogen levels play a huge role in migraines. In an article by Kalidas (2017) it is stated that “hormonal fluctuations during adolescence, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as use of oral contraceptive (OC) pills and postmenopausal hormone therapy” can increase a woman’s intensity and frequency of migraine attacks.
Women experience a few different types of migraines including menstrual , pregnancy, or perimenopausal migraines. Menstrual related migraines occur when a woman experiences migraine attacks consistently with her menstrual cycle. She may also experience migraines throughout the month due to non-hormonal causes. Pregnancy caused migraines may occur during the first trimester.The first trimester generally provides a good idea about whether a woman experiences migraines, as well as the best way to treat them. If a pregnant woman experiences a migraine attack, she should see her physician. Then, this woman and her physician can determine how to address migraine pain. Last but not the least, perimenopausal migraines are a result of an increase in hormonal fluctuation which can increase the intensity and disability of the migraine. However, once the transition to menopause is complete, hormones are more balanced and some women experience a decrease in frequency and intensity of migraines.
With explanations out of the way, we want to end by addressing common treatments to frequently occuring migraines. Clients need to be checked to know if the pain they are experiencing is, in fact, a migraine or another neurological condition. Doctors diagnose migraines based on a patient’s medical history, their symptoms, and through physical and neurological examinations. Clients experiencing severe attacks require additional tests such as a MRI and / or CT scan. An MRI scan uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain, and the blood vessels. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the brain. Both MRI and CT scans help to diagnose tremors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, and other neurological conditions. After the client is diagnosed of having migraines, the doctor prescribes pain relieving medications, or preventive medications based on the severity of the migraine.
- Pain Relieving Medications: A common first step is to use an analgesic such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and if needed an antiemetic. Antiemetic are types of drugs used to treat symptoms of migraines such as nausea and vomiting. We always inform our clients : *You should always take it exactly as directed on the label or as recommended by the doctor. Taking too much (overdose) of pain relievers medications can cause side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms, stomach and or intestine problems*.
- Preventive Medications: Most likely to be recommended and prescribed by the doctor if the client has frequent, long-lasting, or severe headaches that don’t respond well to the treatment. Some examples of preventive medications are: Blood Pressure-lowering medications, antidepressants and much more.
- Some alternative treatments to cure migraines are to incorporate home remedies, acupuncture, and consuming vitamins. Try relaxation techniques, develop a sleeping and eating routine, drink plenty of fluids, and exercise regularly.
- Lastly, I always tell my clients to keep track of their symptoms. Keeping a headache diary or a record by writing a description of each incident of visual disturbances, including when they occurred, how long they lasted and what triggered them. This becomes easier and helps the doctor to diagnose migraines, and see whether or not there are any improvements after the treatments.
*Seek out a doctor if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of migraines, typically a neurologist will diagnose and treat migraines.*
Written by: Micky Patel
My name is Micky Patel and I am from New Jersey, USA. I am currently majoring in Psychology at Kean University, with the only aim of helping people with mental and behavioral health illnesses.
l based this article on clinical volunteering experience at Veterans Affairs, and have shadowed doctors, specifically the neurologist.