Migraines are characterized by the manifestation of a headache whose intensity varies. In most cases, the chief feature is a headache that is usually painful. The headache usually interferes with the running of daily activities. However, there are other associated symptoms that can manifest themselves with or without the headache. Migraines afflict individuals differently and can be mistaken for other ailments.
The presence of several of the following symptoms is an indicator of the high probability of a migraine attack. These symptoms, also known as aura, may take place in the space of a few minutes or up to an hour. Previously, migraine with aura was referred to as classical migraine (Cobb, 2009). Symptoms during attacks vary with individuals. The attacks vary in their severity, manifestation and frequency. Most people do not exhibit symptoms in between attacks. The most common types of symptoms are:
A throbbing headache that is intense, and usually manifests itself on one part of the head.
Nausea or vomiting, there might also be diarrhea.
Heightened sensitivity to sounds, smells and light.
Neurological disturbance that consists of visual trouble such as blind spots, hazy vision, blinking lights or wavy patterns.
Tingling sensations in limbs or feeling pins and needles
Inability to concentrate
Sometimes loss of consciousness
Despite the fact that migraine headaches do not follow the same pattern, attacks manifest themselves in stages (Hungerford, 2014). The most common stages are:
The prodrome (warning) stage: Fatigue, mood change, hunger or thirst can be experienced.
The aura: Symptoms may last up to an hour. They include pins and needles, visual trouble, or confusion. They usually show before the headache.
The main stage of the attack: This is usually represented by a headache that may last several minutes consistently or alternating for up to 72 hours. The stage may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Resolution / postdrome stage: pain gradually disappears. However, lethargy and feeling of energy having been drained may persist.
Recovery stage: some people recover quickly, minutes or a few hours. Some take days.
Potential Triggers of Migraines
The root cause or causes of Migraine headaches have not been specifically pinpointed (Hungerford, 2014). However, researchers based on the experience of patients have listed several stress factors that have been found to trigger migraine headaches.
Emotional Stress: feelings of anger, worry, tension, excitement, depression, loathing or shock. These feelings may bring about migraine headaches.
Physical Stress: Pain from injury, staying up late at night, travelling, a shift in sleeping patterns, tension in neck and shoulders, over-exertion, tiredness (physical and mental). These factors individually or combined can trigger migraine headaches.
Diet/ Food: Long gaps between meals, dehydration, seafood, onions, inadequate food/diet, Cheese and various dairy products, pork, marmite, Aspartame (sweetener), Alcohol, particularly red wine, sherry or beer, Chocolate, Citrus fruits, Monosodium glutamate (common preservative), Coffee and tea (caffeinated drinks).
Environmental factors: Flickering / flashing lights, Smoke, Change of climate / weather, Bright light, Loud noise, Intense or penetrating smells, Stuffy atmosphere.
Hormones: Pregnancy, Hormone replacement therapy, Menstruation and the premenstrual period, Puberty, Contraceptive pills.
Other Triggers: Use of tablets to induce sleep, Toothache or other dental problems, straining the eyes, Congested nose /sinus problems.
It is important to identify your personal trigger factors. It may require self- investigative practice and experimenting. However, the rewards of the investigation will be worthwhile.
Amitriptyline or by the brand name Elavil is a drug commonly used in the treatment of migraine headaches. It functions as a suppressor of tension headaches. It is taken orally. It is important to note that Elavil should not be used if one is allergic to Amitriptyline (WebMD).
Possible Side Effects: They include dizziness, dryness of the mouth, hazy vision, constipation, gaining weight or difficulty in passing urine.
To lessen the risk of dizziness or falling from dizziness, rise slowly when waking from a sitting or lying position. To counter dryness of the mouth, lick sugar-free hard candy, or chew sugar-free gum, take water or a saliva alternative. To prevent constipation, take a fibre rich diet, hydrate constantly and constantly exercise . In addition, consult a pharmacist for a laxative if constipated while using Elavil (WebMD).
Another drug that can be used in treatment is Desipramine, better known by its brand name Norpramin (Drugs.com). Norpramin prevents tension headaches. Possible side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and an increase in appetite, nausea, fatigue and weight gain.
Daily Headache Log
It is important to keep a record of the events or probable triggers. When a headache starts, take note of:
The time it began
The time it ended
Area of the pain
Type of pain
It is also important to record the food taken that day, important physical or emotional events and the hours of sleep before the headache.
Cobb, A. B. (2009). Migraines and headaches. New York, NY: Rosen Pub.
Drugs.com. (n.d.). Elavil Uses, Dosage & Side Effects - Drugs.com. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/elavil.html
Hungerford, C. (2014). Headache. Brunswick: Scribe Publications.
WebMD. (n.d.). Norpramin Oral : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing - WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6936/norpramin+oral/details
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