A migraine is a type of headache characterized by severe throbbing pain on one side of the head accompanied by secondary symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound or smell. Other symptoms may include lightheadedness and blurry vision. A migraine may be preceded by a migraine aura, a neurological warning sign, which may occur 10 to 15 minutes before an attack. These include flashes of light, tingling sensations, or speech problems. Sometimes, you may have migraines without an aura. A migraine may last from a few hours to 3 days.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are thought to be due to dilation and constriction of blood vessels as a result of abnormal nerve communication. It may have a genetic or environmental cause, triggered by missing meals, hormone changes during menstruation, use of birth control pills, stress, poor sleep habits, alcohol and high levels of caffeine, bright lights, loud sounds, unusual smells (paint thinner) and certain foods such as dairy, chocolate and peanuts.
When you present to the clinic with migraine symptoms, your doctor will study the nature and history of your headaches and associated symptoms and identify any family history of the condition. Blood tests, CT and MRI scans may be ordered to rule out other possible reasons for your headache.
To treat migraine, your doctor may prescribe medication that prevents migraines, to be taken on a regular basis, or abortive medication to be taken when a migraine occurs. Certain medication used for other purposes such as anti-nausea medication, blood pressure medication, anti-seizure medication, or antidepressants are also effective in treating symptoms of migraine.