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Common Questions about Migraine

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The most frequently asked questions about Migraine answered in easy to understand language. A quick guide on Migraine for lay man.


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How do I know whether this is migraine?

This is the most common question most people are unsure about diagnosis of migraine. Though all migraines are headaches, all headaches are not migraines. There can be many causes like high blood pressure, cervical spondylosis and poor eyesight being a few. So every one with headaches should not think he is suffering from migraine. The broad criterion of diagnosis is if you have two or more of the following symptoms during a attack it is probable you are suffering from migraine:

a. Throbbing headache, often on one side of the head only.
b. Visual disturbances (blink spots, distorted vision, flashing lights or zigzag patterns) these symptoms are often called aura.
c. Nausea and vomiting or diarrhea.
d. Increased sensitivity to light.
e. Increase sensitivity to sounds.

The second general rule is that if a headache and other associated symptoms prevent you from continuing with daily activities it could be a migraine.

What are the common triggers?

Migraine is believed to be caused by release of a chemical called serotonin or 5HT into the bloodstream from its storage sites in the body, resulting in changes in neurotransmitters and blood vessels in the brain. Exactly what causes this to happen is still not clear: However certain factors have been identified which can trigger attacks in susceptible people:
a. Emotional stress, e.g., anger, worry, shock, depression.
b. Physical exertion like over exertion / tiredness change in sleep patterns and traveling.
c. Hormonal changes like menstruation and pre-menstrual period, puberty, menopause.
d. Environmental like light, loud noise, intense smells, change or climate or smoking
e. Diet like lack of food or infrequent meals, specific foods like chocolate, citrus fruits, cheese, alcohol, especially red wine.
f. Other triggers like use of sleeping tablets high blood pressure, toothache or other dental problems, eyestrain, congested nose and sinus problems.

Migraine triggers are numerous and varied and occur in combinations peculiar to a individual. For most there is not just one trigger but a combination. These can be tolerated individually but when several occur together, a threshold is passed and an attack is triggered. Identifying and avoiding personal trigger factors can help.

If one of my parents suffers from migraines, is it necessary that I will also have it?

Though it has been seen that migraine does run in families, it is not necessary that children of migraine patients will also have it. Nor this is true the other way round. People often say that since nobody in family had migraine, they cannot have. This is also not true. It is possible for people to have migraine even when nobody in the family has it.

Migraine is difficult to cure?

Migraine is very much a curable disease as any other disease.