A migraine is a common type of headache that may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. In many people, a throbbing pain is felt only on one side of the head.
A migraine headache is a form of vascular headache. Migraine headache is caused by vasodilatation (enlargement of blood vessels) that causes the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the large arteries of the brain. Enlargement of these blood vessels stretches the nerves that coil around them and causes the nerves to release chemicals. The chemicals cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. The increasing enlargement of the arteries magnifies the pain.
Some people who get migraines have warning symptoms, called an aura, before the actual headache begins. An aura is a group of symptoms, including vision disturbances, that are a warning sign that a bad headache is coming.
Types of Migraine
There are two types of migraine headaches – classic migraine and common migraine.
Classic migraine: This type of migraine is preceded or accompanied by certain warning signs. You generally feel a sort of aura around you which includes seeing lights flashing, an array of colors, hallucinations, blurred vision, blind spots, numb or tingling feeling in the arms and legs and a temporary loss of vision, especially your side vision. It is also accompanied by emotional disturbances such as feelings of depression, irritability and an overall feeling of uneasiness. Classic migraine can cause headache on one or both sides of your head.
Common migraine: You will not feel any aura with common migraines. They begin slowly and last longer than classic migraines. With common migraines the pain is felt on only one side of your head.
Causes of Migraine Headache
Researchers aren’t sure what causes a migraine, although they know it involves changes in the blood flow in the brain. Initially, blood vessels constrict (narrow), reducing blood flow and leading to visual disturbances, difficulty speaking, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation in one area of the body, or other similar symptoms. Later, the blood vessels dilate (enlarge) leading to increased blood flow and a severe headache. There also seems to be a genetic link to migraine headaches. Over half of migraine patients have an affected family member. Migraine triggers can include the following:
- Alcohol, especially beer and red wine
- Certain Foods, such as aged cheeses, chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, some fruits (like avocado, banana, and citrus), Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG), onions, dairy products, meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats) fermented or pickled Foods
- Skipping meals
- Fluctuations in hormones (for example, during pregnancy, before and during your period, and menopause)
- Certain odors, such as perfume or smoke
- Bright lights
- Loud noises
- Stress, physical or emotional (often, the headache occurs during a period of relaxation after a particularly stressful time)
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
- Some medications
- Heat, high humidity, and high altitude
Symptoms of Migraine Headache
About 20% of migraine headache sufferers get visual warning before a migraine attack. They may see a kind of “aura” that may include flickering points of light, blind spots, or zig-zagging lines. Sometimes, migraine sufferers may also experience peculiar odors or their limbs may become numb just prior to an attack. However, most people who suffer from migraines do not get any warning. Symptoms, if any, may vary from person to person and may range in severity.
- Moderate to severe, throbbing headache- right side or left side of the head.
- Head pain that gets severe with increased physical activity.
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Red eyes with burning sensation in eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Migraine sufferer wants to stay all alone and finds comfort in silent and dark room
- Depression and irritability
- Numbness or weakness in an arm or leg