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What is Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disease. A migraine is a very painful type of headache. In some cases, these painful headaches are preceded or accompanied by a sensory warning sign (aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg. More than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraine, with women being affected three times more often than men. This vascular headache is most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 and 55, and 70% to 80% of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Migraine is the second most common type of headache syndrome in the United States. Tension headaches are the most common. Migraines most commonly are found in women, with a 3:1 female-to-male ratio.

In childhood, however, migraines are more common in boys than in girls. More than 80% of patients who develop migraines will have a first attack by age 30. Migraines continue through the patient's 30s and 40s. Less than half of all migraine sufferers. Migraine is often misdiagnosed as sinus headache or tension-type headache. Migraines' secondary characteristics are inconsistent. Triggers precipitating a particular episode of migraine vary widely. The efficacy of the simplest treatment, applying warmth or coolness to the affected area of the head, varies between persons, sometimes worsening the migraine. A particular migraine rescue drug may sometimes work and sometimes not work in the same patient.

Migraine pain is caused by vasodilation in the cranial blood vessels (expansion of the blood vessels), while headache pain is caused by vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels). Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Some people can tell when they are about to have a migraine because they see flashing lights or zigzag lines or they temporarily lose their vision. Migraines are classified as either "with aura" or "without aura." An aura is a group of neurological symptoms, usually vision disturbances that serve as warning sign. Patients who get auras typically see a flash of brightly colored or blinking lights shortly before the headache pain begins.

However, most people with migraines do not have such warning signs. Migraines often begin in adolescence, and are rare after age 60. Eighty percent of migraine sufferers experience "migraine without aura. Some of the symptoms associated with migraine headaches, such as nausea (80%), vomiting (50%), yawning, irritability, hypotension, and hyperactivity, can be associated with dopamine receptor activation. Dopamine receptor hypersensitivity has been shown experimentally with dopamine agonists such as apomorphine, bromocriptine, and pergolide. Dopamine antagonists, such as metoclopramide (Reglan), haloperidol (Haldol), and prochlorperazine (Compazine), have been shown clinically to treat migraine headaches effectively.

There is no specific cure for migraine headaches. Many factors may contribute to the occurrence of migraine attacks. They are known as trigger factors and may include diet, sleep, activity, psychological issues as well as many other factors. The goal is to prevent symptoms by avoiding or altering triggers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful for early and mild headache. NSAIDs include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others. A recent study concluded that a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine could effectively relieve symptoms for many migraine patients. Migraine-specific medications and analgesia are the keys of ED care.

Triptans are a mid-line treatment suitable for many migraineurs with typical migraines. They may not work for atypical or unusually severe migraines, transformed migraines, or status (continuous) migraines.Rest in a darkened, quiet room is helpful. Alternative treatments are aimed at prevention of migraine. Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances. Identification and elimination of the offending food or foods can decrease the frequency of migraines and/or alleviate these headaches altogether. Herbal therapy with feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) may lessen the frequency of attacks. Some patients find cool compresses to painful areas helpful.

Juliet Cohen writes articles for acne treatment and depression treatment. She also writes articles on skin disorders.