All of us suffer from a headache. Some of us have it infrequently and is easily treatable with over the counter pain killers. However, a few of us have very frequent or troublesome headaches and some may be having an almost daily headache. Often these people have partial relief or no relief with routine painkillers. Sometimes the headache is so severe that you might have to take leave from your work and have rest for a day before you are normal again. During these headache episodes, you don’t feel like doing anything and just lie down in a quiet dark room. If you are the one who experiences such headache episodes then you may be suffering from migraine.
What is migraine?
Migraine is a very common disorder in which the patient has repeated attacks of distressing headache associated with other symptoms like black or colored dots before eyes, nausea, and vomiting. The headache of migraine is often slow to develop starting with heaviness in the head. Pain is often limited to one half of head but can involve whole head or neck region. It is throbbing or pounding in nature and can be moderate to severe in intensity. Patients often feel nauseous during the attack and might vomit. He or she is very much distressed by the headache and might want to lie down quietly in a dark and quiet room. The patient is irritated by bright lights and loud noises. Such headache tends to last from a few hours to a few days and may not respond to routine pain killers. Few people may have to take leave from their work causing significant absenteeism. Rarely migraine patients may have weakness of one half of the body or loss of consciousness. It is also seen that migraine tends to run in families so often close relatives of migraine patients are also seen to be affected by this disorder.
What can be done to prevent attacks of migraine?
It is found that in some individuals definite triggers for migraine can be identified. Few of these triggers include dietary items like chocolate, pickles, cheese, processed or canned food, MSG containing food products, Chinese foods. Apart from food, other triggers of migraine include fasting, skipping meals, less sleep, excess sleep, menses, change in weather, strong perfumes, bright lights, airplane travel, stress, extreme exertion. If such specific triggers can be identified then they should be avoided to prevent attacks of migraine. In some people, no specific triggers can be identified.
Is migraine curable?
Migraine is not curable but easily treatable. People who have very frequent attacks causing significant distress and loss of productive working hours require medications after consulting a neurologist. Medications for migraine may be taken for relief of pain at the start of headaches if the pain is mild and if the attacks are infrequent. For those with frequent or severe attacks, regular medications are required for migraine prophylaxis to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks. Apart from avoiding triggers maintaining a healthy lifestyle like eating healthy food, doing regular exercise, taking adequate sleep and maintaining good sleep hygiene, avoiding stress is the key to successfully treat migraine.
MD DM (Neurology)
Consultant, Neurology & Epileptology