by John Gibson

What are migraines?

The medical term for head pain or headache coupled with throbbing pain and pulsing sensation is migraine. It is usually felt on one side of the head and can last for several hours, even days. According to a survey, 70 percent of migraine cases are experienced by women and it is the third most common disease in the world.


Symptoms of migraine

MIGRAINESthere are four stages of migraine symptoms, though not all are usually experienced in most cases. Some symptoms of migraine are often experienced hours or days before the headache itself begins
PRODROMAL STAGE OF MIGRAINE: it is considered the warning phase for migraine patients. Common symptoms in this stage include:


  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Feeling depressed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Frequent yawning
  • Muscle stiffness


AURA:  series of symptoms that often precede migraine attack are sensory disturbances that occur due to electrochemical change in the brain. These disturbances are known as ‘aura’, they occur in 20 to 25 percent of migraine cases. They occur 20 minutes to an hour before the head pain and are usually visual or sensory disturbances. Common migraine symptoms at the aura phase may include:


  • Blurry vision or blind spots
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • A feeling of numbness spreading towards different parts of your body
  • Seeing dots, flashy lights, or wavy lights


The aura phase of migraine attacks usually lasts for 10 to 30 minutes in children and most adults. The sensory and visual pains are followed by severe head pain in one part of the head. The pain can move to the other side of the head during the migraine. Common symptoms include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Throbbing, burning, and drilling pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Phonophobia and photophobia (sensitivity to sound and light)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Neck pain and neck stiffness
  • Sensitivity to smell and touch


Right after the headaches, migraine sufferers experience hangover-like post migraine symptoms which take hours and sometimes days to recover from. These symptoms are often linked to methods used to treat the headache; common causes are medication and prescription pills. This stage/phase of migraine is called the postdrome stage, common symptoms of this stage include:


  • Fatigue and body ache
  • Brief and sudden head pain when you try to move your head and from exposure to bright light and strong smell
  • Feeling drained and lightheaded
  • Trouble concentrating


It takes days or weeks to transition through all four stages of a migraine.


What causes migraines? 


Migraine stems from a lot of factors. A lot of migraine triggers are self-induced, some are linked to heredity, and it is sometimes a symptom of chronic disease. Some common causes of migraine triggers include:


  • Physical factor: strenuous physical activities like exercise including intense sexual activity could trigger migraine
  • Medications and illicit drugs: cocaine, opioids, and cannabis can induce a migraine. Headaches are also caused by dosage and hormones in some pills.
  • Chronic diseases and other health issues: headaches are often triggered as a symptom of chronic diseases such as brain tumors, stroke, and heart diseases. Infections such as meningitis, an intracranial pressure that’s either too high or too low, and traumatic brain injury are also trigger factors.
  • Stress: stress and other harmful emotions like anxiety and depression can cause the release of hormones that could trigger a migraine.
  • Foods: migraine triggering foods include: yeast, red wine, excessive coffee, chocolate, processed foods, and foods filled with excessive artificial sweeteners. Skipping meals and eating too late could also prompt migraine
  • Getting too much sleep or missing sleep could also aggravate migraine
  • Weather change: according to a study published in 2015, researchers found that even a slight decrease in barometric pressure can induce a migraine.
  • Drinks like alcohol, red wine, and caffeine-filled beverages can also cause migraine
  • Strong smell, bright light, loud noise, and some other intense sensory stimuli are potential migraine triggers.




  • Use of Pain relievers. These over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers include aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin ibuprofen). When taken too long, these might cause medication-overuse headaches, and possibly bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Anti-nausea drugs. These can help if your migraine with aura is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Anti-nausea drugs include chlorpromazine or prochlorperazine (Compro) are usually taken with pain medications.
  • Opioid medications. For people who have migraines who can’t take other migraine medications, narcotic opioid medications, especially those that contain codeine, might help. Because they can be highly addictive, these are usually prescribed if the use of other medications have proven futile.
  • Use of Antidepressants. A tricyclic antidepressant (amitriptyline) can prevent migraines. Because of the side effects of amitriptyline, such as sleepiness and weight gain, other antidepressants might be prescribed instead.
  • Blood pressure-lowering medications. These include beta-blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor). Calcium channel blockers such as verapamil ( Verelan) can be very effective in preventing migraines with aura.


Your treatment choices depend on the frequency and severity of your headaches, whether you have nausea and vomiting with your headaches. Medications can also help prevent frequent migraines. Your doctor might recommend preventive medications if you have frequent, long-lasting, or severe headaches that don’t respond well to treatment.


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