A migraine is a severe, throbbing headache that typically affects one area or side of the head and is usually accompanied by nausea and dizziness. Migraines can last anywhere from hours to days. The triggers of a migraine are not fully understood at this time. Most researchers believe migraines can be caused by fluctuating hormone levels within the brain, which send messages between the brain cells, resulting in a predisposition to the development of migraines. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men, and the hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause may trigger migraine attacks. Research has shown that the majority of people afflicted with migraines have a family history of migraine attacks. Migraine attacks may be triggered as a result of external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights and strong odors. Medication, stress, and too little or too much sleep may also lead to migraines. It is believed that certain foods, such as alcohol, chocolate, aged cheeses, and food containing aspartame or monosodium glutamate, may also act as triggers.
Migraines can cause moderate to severe pain that varies in intensity. The pain is often felt in one particular area of the head; however, both sides of the head may be affected. Symptoms of a migraine include nausea, lightheadedness, sensitivity to light, smells and sound, and throbbing, pulsating pain. Other symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, ringing in the ears, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances- known as auras. Symptoms of auras include seeing bright spots, flashes of light, or lines, as well as a tingling sensation that is felt in the arms.
The treatment of migraines includes pain relieving medications such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-nausea medications, anti-seizure medications and cardiovascular drugs known as beta blockers and triptans. OnabotulinumtoxinA, also known as Botox, has also proven helpful in the treatment of migraines.