Frequently Asked Questions About Migraines

migraineMigraines can be a debilitating condition for many people which can lead to a reduced quality of life. It can take a long and difficult journey to experiment with treatments and determine what works best for you. You may have many questions regarding what you or your loved ones are experiencing, so here’s a review of the most commonly asked questions about migraines.

Difference Between A Migraine and Headache  

Migraines can occur on all sides of your head but most commonly happen on one side in the temple area. A tension headache on the otherhand, occurs on both sides of your head. Both types can last from 30 minutes to a couple of days, but some instances, migraines can last longer than a few days at a time.  

A tension headache can be caused by muscle tension, stress, noise or depression.   It will result in a dull aching pain and can usually be relieved by an over-the-counter medication.  This type of headache will not leave you incapacitated.

Migraines can be triggered by many events and the symptoms can include vomiting, depression, fever, chills, loose bowels, sensitivity to light, changes in vision, skin sensations and other debilitating signs. Migraines can leave you bed bound in a darkened room for many hours.

When To Seek Help?

Seeking help for migraines is important as it can rule out other health conditions that may otherwise go undetected.  Contact your GP when the following occurs:

  • They occur three or more times a month and last for several hours.

  • You are left debilitated with a major impact on your life.

  • Your headache includes a stiff neck, confusion or decreased alertness.

  • Prior to the onset of your headache, you experienced trauma to the head.

  • You have previously been headache free.

  • Symptoms occur between headaches, including vomiting, depression, chills etc.

Food Additives

Food additives are a very common cause for migraines. The following is a list of foods that you should avoid:

  • Processed meats such as hot dogs or luncheon meats.

  • Foods that contain MSG.

  • Certain types of cheese including blue cheese, cheddar, brie, processed cheese and mozzarella.

  • Caffeine, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners

How Are They Diagnosed?

Prior to meeting with your GP, maintain a Migraine Diary to assist with the diagnosis.  Whenever migraines occur, record information such as:

  • Where did the pain occur?

  • How long did the headache last?

  • When did it occur: perimenopause, menopause, pre-menstruation, menstruation?

  • What were the symptoms: vomiting, chills, depression, fever?

  • Is there a family history of migraines and which generation?

  • Any medications that you are presently taking.

Your doctor may be able to diagnose with just this information, or a number of tests could be scheduled including a CT scan, MRI or blood work.

What Is The Impact of Contraception Pills on Migraines?

Some women experience less migraines while on contraception pills while others may experience more. If you experience them during the last week of your cycle, it could be because your body’s estrogen level is lower since these pills have no estrogen. Discuss with your doctor the possibility of taking a brand that contains estrogen throughout the entire cycle.

What To Do When Migraine Attacks Begin?  

Some people are aware of signs that occur prior to the onset. Take notice of the following:  feeling unusually excited or depressed, irritable, sleepy, cravings for certain foods and thirsty.  When the migraine starts, immediately take your pain medication, drink fluids if you don’t usually vomit and lie down in a darkened room to reduce the progression of the migraine.  Placing a cold cloth on your head, getting a massage and applying pressure to the temple will also help.

Continuing symptoms after migraines subside is known as postdrome symptoms and may include tiredness, sluggishness and pain that may flare up when you bend over. Pamper yourself for the next day or two and stay rested, relaxed and away from stress and triggers. Do you have other questions that you want us to answer?  Share your questions with us by commenting below.

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Image Credit: cristinacosta 

Updated: 09/29/13 10:42am

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