Migraine is a disorder associated with repeated episodes of headache – which is usually on one side of the head. In some cases, migraine is associated with sensory or visual symptoms (Auras). Auras often arise before the pain. Migraine is often associated with extremely high sensitivity to sound and light and to some perfumes as well.

What are the symptoms of migraine?

Migraine progresses through these stages: Prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome. It is not necessary that those who suffer from migraine should experience all these stages.

Prodrome: It starts one or two days before migraine. The changes that signal the arrival of migraine include neck stiffness, constipation, mood changes, increased thirst & urination and frequent yawning.

Aura: These are sensory and visual symptoms like flashes of light, wavy, zigzag vision. The muscles may become weak and you may experience touch (sensory disturbances). Sometimes motor or speech disturbances are also present. The symptoms include weakness or numbness in the face, difficulty speaking, hearing noise or music or uncontrollable movement.

Attack: Pain is felt on one or both the sides of head. The pain is throbbing and pulsating, and is associated with blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, smell, touch, light-headedness and fainting. A migraine lasts for about 4 to 72 hours if untreated.

Post-drome: the final phase in which you may feel drained or washout. The symptoms that prevail include confusion, weakness, moodiness, dizziness and sensitivity to light & sound.

What causes migraine?

Though the exact cause of migraine is not understood, changes in brain chemicals, hormones, genetics and environmental factors may play a major role.

What are migraine triggers?

Some foods (processed food, ice-creams, aged-cheeses, salty foods); drinks (alcohol, caffeinated beverages, wines); food additives (monosodium glutamate); stress, bright lights, sounds; missing sleep or too much sleep; intense physical exertion; changes in weather and some medicines like oral contraceptives and vasodilators may trigger migraines.

Who are at risk?

There are several factors that can make you prone to migraine including age (adolescence), family history; sex (females are three times more likely to get migraines than men); and hormonal changes (women – prior to onset of menstruation or shortly after menstruation)

How is migraine diagnosed?

Doctor makes a diagnosis from the medical history of the patient and neurological examination. Patients with a history of recurrent migraine headaches and normal neurologic examination don’t require neuroimaging. However, neuroimaging (MRI) is recommended in patients to rule out other conditions.

What is the treatment?

Many medicines are prescribed for migraine. Early treatment is best for faster relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as ergotamine and triptans may be given to stop migraines. To prevent frequent migraines, medicines must be used daily. These drugs include calcium channel blockers, antidepressants (anvenflaxin), anticonvulsants, NSAIDs, and hormones. Other medicines may be given for long and severe headaches.