Migraine is a disorder of the nervous system (which includes the brain, spinal cord and nerves) that causes recurring headaches and affects approximately 28 Million Americans, most of which are young women. These headaches are characterized by pain that generally occurs on one side of the head and is accompanied by other symptoms which may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound (as well as many other symptoms that vary with each person) Some migraineurs have head pain that "travels" or moves from one region of the head to another, as well as spreading to the face, neck and shoulder area.
While migraines can strike at any time, they tend to rear their ugly heads in the morning hours and can last anywhere from several hours to several days (I have personally topped out at 33 continuous days!!!)
The exact cause is not known, although there are a few popular theories...one includes the idea that a migraine headache occurs when changes in brain activity cause inflammation of nerves and blood vessels around the brain.
It is imperative to keep a Headache Journal if you suffer from chronic migraines/headaches. This will enable you to find out what your specific triggers are. Triggers are environmental factors that can help bring on or contribute to your headaches. Some of these things include certain foods, erratic sleep patterns, hormone changes, stress/anxiety, weather patterns, barometric pressure changes and even strong odors and bright lighting.
Some migraineurs get what is known as "aura" which are visual disturbances that can include wavy or zig zag lines, tunnel vision, blind spots, strange odors, or even sensations in the body including numbness or "pins and needles" The aura occurs before migraine pain begins. These neurological events may last as long as sixty minutes and will generally fade once the pain starts.
Approximately 80% of migraineurs report a family history of migraines. Although this is somewhat uncertain, a child has a 50% chance of having migraines if one parent has them and 75% chance if both parents suffer.
Please stay tuned to the next "Educate Yourself" article. Feel free to respond, comment or even ask questions.
Migraine/Headache Forum Moderator