While there is much about headaches that is not understood, migraines may be caused by functional changes in the trigeminal nerve system, a major pain pathway in your nervous system, and by brain chemical imbalances, including serotonin, this regulates pain messages in the nervous system.
Serotonin levels drop during a headache. When this occurs, the trigeminal nerve releases substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain's outer covering. This causes blood vessels to become dilated and inflamed. The result is headache pain. It is also possible that low amounts of magnesium may cause nerve cells in the brain to misfire.
Common migraine headache triggers include hormonal changes, certain foods, such as alcohol, chocolate; fermented, pickled or marinated foods; aspartame; caffeine; and many canned and processed foods. Studies also indicate that skipping meals or fasting may also trigger migraines. Other migraine headache triggers include, stress, sensory stimulus, physical factors, such as intense physical exertion, environmental changes and certain medications.
A typical migraine headache attack produces some or all of these signs and symptoms:
While it is less common, some people experience migraines with auras, meaning they experience sparkling flashes of light, zigzag lines or blind spots in the field of vision, tingling, pins and needles sensations in one arm or leg and even weakness or language and speech problems.
Some sufferers may have one or more sensations of premonition before the onset of a headache, including:
According to the American Academy of Neurology, more than 28 million Americans, three times more women than men, suffer from migraine headaches, a severe type of headache that is often disabling. The pain can be excruciating and may incapacitate you for hours or even days.
The good news is that in the last decade, migraine headache pain relief has improved dramatically. Patients who have seen a doctor in the past with little success, it's time to make another appointment. While there's still no cure, medications may help reduce the frequency of migraine headaches and stop the pain once it has started. Home remedies and changes in lifestyle partnered with the right medications may make a tremendous difference for migraine sufferers.
There are several drugs commonly used to treat other conditions that also may help relieve migraines in some people. Some medications aren't recommended if you're pregnant or breast-feeding. Some aren't used for children. Your doctor can help find the right medication for you.
All of these medications fall into two classes:
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