A Deep Dive Into Migraines


Migraines are those painfully intense, pulsing headaches that some people get.

Recurring often, they cause moderate to severe pain on one side of the head. This may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light or sound.

Migraine attacks can cause significant pain that may last from a few hours to several days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling.

Who gets migraines?

Migraines can affect anyone, but these categories of people are especially prone:

  • Women are three times more likely than men to get migraines
  • People with a family history of migraines
  • Those with other medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and epilepsy.

What causes migraines?

There are no definitive explanations for migraines but despite this, we do know a few things that can trigger a migraine. These include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Loud noises and strong smells
  • Adverse reactions to some medicines
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Sudden changes in weather or environment
  • Overexertion i.e. too much physical activity
  • Tobacco & caffeine use or withdrawal
  • Skipped meals
  • Certain foods like
  1. Alcohol
  2. Chocolate
  3. Aged cheeses
  4. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  5. Some fruits and nuts
  6. Fermented or pickled goods
  7. Yeast cured or processed meats
  8. Taking medicine for migraines too often

Symptoms of migraines

Migraines are more common in the morning; people often wake up with them. Some people have migraines at predictable times, such as before menstruation or on weekends following a stressful week of work.

One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that could be warnings of an upcoming migraine like:

  • Constipation
  • Mood swings from depression to euphoria
  • Food cravings
  • Neck stiffness
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Frequent yawning

Flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of your face, arm or leg may occur before or during the migraine. After the migraine, you may feel exhausted, weak and confused for up to a day.

When to see a doctor

Migraines are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you regularly experience migraine attacks keep a diary of when they happened, how you treated them and what you ate or drank that day.This will be useful for your doctor.

Even if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different.

The following signs and symptoms could indicate a more serious medical problem:

  • An abrupt, severe headache like a thunderclap
  • Headaches with fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness or trouble speaking
  • Any headache after hitting your head hard
  • A chronic headache that is worse after coughing, exertion, straining or a sudden movement
  • New headache pain if you’re older than 50


Medications can help prevent some migraines and make them less painful but there is no cure for migraines. Talk to your doctor for detailed help.

Other things you can do to feel better:

  • Resting with your eyes closed in a quiet, darkened room
  • Placing a cool cloth or ice pack on your forehead
  • Drinking fluids

Some lifestyle changes can also help:

Stress management strategies such as exercise and relaxation may reduce the number and severity of migraines.

A migraine diary can help you learn what you need to avoid, such as certain foods and medicines. It also helps with what you should do, such as establishing a consistent sleep schedule and eating regular meals.

Hormone therapy may help some women whose migraines seem to be linked to their menstrual cycle.

Obese people may find losing weight to be helpful.

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