Migraine is not just a headache when the pain and symptoms disappear. It affects the daily lives of patients and can completely change their lifestyle. Migraine symptoms can be debilitating and last up to 72 hours. Migraine is a common disease that affects about 38 million people in the United States and about 10% of people worldwide.
Some brain changes can begin as early as 24 hours before symptoms appear. Many patients complain of phonophobia (sensitivity to sound), photophobia (sensitivity to light), and severe throbbing headaches, usually only on one side of the head. Some patients also experience nausea and vomiting. Some of these symptoms may even continue after the headache ends.
There are various subtypes of migraines, with symptoms that sometimes include aura, dizziness, speech difficulties, numbness, and weakness. These symptoms can be a huge disability that affects quality of life and leads to overall unproductivity and missed work days.
A 2015 study found that 9.7% of men and 20% of women had experienced severe headaches or migraines in the previous 3 months. Migraines can be of various types, such as chronic, hemiplegic, retinal with aura, without aura, and without headache.
Migraines can increase sensitivity after each subsequent attack, leading to a chronic or even daily condition. Causes of migraines can include changes in sleep patterns, genetics, hormonal or menstrual changes, environmental factors, and imbalances in brain chemicals such as the calcitonin gene-linked peptide (CGRP) and serotonin. Triggers for migraines include alcohol, food, bright lights, medications, physical factors, sun glare, sensory stimuli, stress, and changes in the weather.
When treating migraines, the main goal is to prevent future attacks and stop symptoms. Treatment options are divided into 2 main categories of painkillers (abortive treatment) and preventive medications. Responsive migraine prevention and treatment is incredibly important.
Sometimes people can use an “abortive” medication that, if taken early, can stop the migraine process. For many patients, preventative medications can also reduce the frequency and severity of future attacks.