Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Migraine

Migraine

Migraine is a form of headache which is severe and usually one sided, frequently associated with nausea and vomiting. This is sometimes preceded by warning symptoms which usually affect the eyesight and are known as an "aura".

Symptoms

People sometimes feel not quite right prior to a migraine eg depressed, unusually happy or hungry, and in addition may suffer from visual changes eg flashing, zig-zag lines, or a blind spot. Sometimes the symptoms are even more extreme. The headache is usually one sided although it is not invariably the same side. Quite quickly nausea and vomiting may follow. The bowels may also be affected and in children sometimes there is no headache but abdominal pain instead.

Causes

Each person is different but there are some "trigger" factors which are commonly involved:

tiredness
physical exhaustion
stress
climatic change
hormones, eg the "time of the month" in women
foods, eg caffeine, cheese, chocolate, red wine

Treatment and prevention

1. Note down your attacks in a diary and try to spot any common triggering factors, and avoid them if possible.

2. Try avoiding any food which seems implicated and at a later stage take a small trial dose of the food again to see whether it genuinely is involved.

3. At the first symptom of an attack take a pain killer eg aspirin or paracetamol, even if this means waking yourself up when you notice symptoms while half asleep in the early hours of the morning. (Often by getting up time it is too late to abort the attack.)

4. Most people find that it helps to lie down in a darkened room, in fact there may be little else you are able to do. In some instances migraine follows a period of rushing around over-stretching yourself, and it might be looked on as the body's way of slowing you down.

5. Sometimes bathing your head in cold water or using a cold compress on the forehead is helpful.

6. There are some over the counter preparations which contain a pain killer and a medication which stops nausea and vomiting (antiemetic). These are often even more effective than the pain killer alone, as migraine is associated with poor absorption from the stomach and a tendency for food and drink to stay in the stomach much longer than usual (prior to being sick).

7. Your doctor may prescribe something along the lines of the above, or possibly one of the more modern specific antimigraine treatments, which work on one of the chemical pathways in the brain.

8. If the attacks are frequent and disruptive, then your doctor may prescribe a drug to be taken daily as a preventative.

9. Sometimes relaxation and meditation techniques may be helpful as may some of the complementary therapies.
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