Migraine Headaches: Causes And Treatment

If you periodically suffer from migraine headaches, then you know how disrupting they can be. Everyday tasks like reading, focusing, or simply staying awake takes a monumental effort. The pain and fogginess in your mind are enough to keep you out of work and away from anticipated social events.

Migraines can be chronic or acute, but regardless of their duration, they can interrupt your life in a negative way. In order to prevent or treat them, however, we need to know what are the causes of these headaches and what can be done to treat them effectively.

Who’s More At Risk?

Women are typically more at risk for migraines due to the hormonal changes they go through during their monthly menstruation cycles, contraception methods, pregnancies, and menopause.

Age is also a factor, placing people in their 30s at the highest risk. Family history is also a strong indication that you will have migraines as well, so ask around and see if your parents or grandparents suffer from migraines.

What Causes Migraine Headaches?

There is no one single cause for migraines, but these are the most commonly reported sources that trigger them:

  • Dehydration
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medication side effects
  • Oversleeping
  • Physical exertion
  • Reactions to food and drink
  • Sensory stimuli- Exposure to strong lights and sounds
  • Stress
  • Weather changes

woman with a migraine
If you cannot pinpoint the source of your migraines, it is good to keep a lifestyle journal. You may discover that after you drink red wine or coffee your headaches start. You may also develop a migraine while at work but on the weekends you suddenly feel fine. This could mean your job is too stressful and a lifestyle change is in order for you to get better.

Because we still do not know the exact cause of migraines, it is important to keep as many records as possible about your life to narrow down possible triggers.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Migraine?

When left to their own devices, migraines last up to 3 days. You may experience a few or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to smells and touch
  • Throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of your head
  • Vomiting

Once the migraine attack subsides and the pain decreases, you may experience a postdrome, which is the migraine’s aftermath where you will feel exhausted and drained for about a day. The symptoms are similar to a migraine itself like persisting sensory sensitivity and dizziness.

You may also feel confused, moody, and weak during this period. However, with treatment, you can cut these debilitating symptoms short and get back to your normal life as soon as possible.

How Can We Treat Migraines?

You can treat migraines in four ways:

  • Pain medication
  • Preventive medication
  • Alternative medicine
  • Lifestyle changes

Pain Medication

This is the go-to treatment that the majority of people reach for, which are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription. Some OTC medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Excedrin or aspirin can help with mild to moderate migraines.

To get more powerful and effective medication to treat severe migraine pain, you will need prescription drugs. Triptans are strong against severe migraines. In the case of patients who are allergic to these usual migraine medications, opioids like codeine are an option. Doctors are careful to prescribe opioids because can be habit-forming, so take them only under the advice of your physician.

Since migraines are often associated with nausea, you may be prescribed anti-nausea medications that will help ease gastrointestinal discomfort.

Preventive Medication

If you find yourself suffering from four or more migraine attacks a month or if your migraines are long-lasting and pain medication is providing little relief, then you should ask your doctor about preventive medications. Taken regularly, these can reduce the strength, length, and frequency of your migraine attacks.

Doctors commonly prescribe beta blockers, which are also useful for cardiovascular disease. There are also a few antidepressants that can also help in preventing migraines even if you do not have depression. Anti-seizure drugs have also been known to help. Ask your doctor about which preventive medication would be right for you.

Alternative Medicine and Lifestyle Changes

If you are interested in choosing a more natural path and avoid medication, then alternative procedures like acupuncture, biofeedback, massage therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy have been purported to be useful.

Some vitamins, herbs, and supplements have also been said to be useful, among which are:

  • Vitamin B-2
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Butterbur
  • Magnesium (due to magnesium deficiency)

Avoiding trigger foods, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet have also played roles in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines. Staying hydrated also has been reported to improve the likelihood of avoiding migraines.These treatments do not involve pharmaceutical medications but should still be cleared by your doctor.

As with all your medical needs, you should get a consultation with a physician to determine the right course of treatment for your migraines.

Drop-in to Sullivan Medical Clinic at Sullivan Square in Surrey. We can prescribe you the appropriate countermeasures to your migraines get you back on your feet as soon as possible.