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“You really want to get a headache? Try to understand Internet advertising.”
Migraine is more than just a really intense headache. It is a chronic neurological disorder characterised by recurrent moderate to severe headaches. The difference to a standard “headache” is that it often occurs in association with a number of changes within autonomic nervous system. The word derives from the Greek (hemikrania), "pain on one side of the head", from 'hemi-', "half", and 'kranion', which means "skull".
Typically the migraine is manifested as a unilateral headache (initially affecting only one half of the head) and it is pulsating in nature. It can last anywhere from 2 to 72 hours.
Other associated symptoms (stemming from the autonomic nervous system changes) may include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light (photophobia,) increased sensitivity to sound (phonophobia). The pain is usually made worse by physical activity.
Up to one-third of people with migraine headaches perceive a transient visual, sensory or motor disturbance just prior to the onset of the headache (referred to as an 'aura'.) Occasionally an aura can occur with little or no headache following it.
Although the exact mechanisms of migraines are not known, they are often characterised as a neurovascular disorder. Increased excitability of the cerebral cortex and abnormal control of pain neurons in the trigeminal nucleus of the brainstem have been noted as probable causes. Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.
About two-thirds of cases run in families.
Fluctuating hormone levels may also play a role: migraine affects slightly more boys than girls before puberty, but about two to three times more women than men. Propensity for migraines usually decreases during pregnancy.
Typically, migraine sufferers treat themselves with simple analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the headache, an antiemetic for the nausea, and where possible they try to identify the triggers and avoid these (can differ between sufferers but usually related to increased light and sound). Often health professionals will prescribe specific agents such as triptans or ergotamines may be used by those for whom simple analgesics are not effective.
Globally, approximately 15% of the population is affected by migraines at some point in life. Which is quite a high number.
If you or your loved one are experiencing new-onset headaches, a change in frequency or intensity of your headaches, you should consult a healthcare professional before going on any new treatments.
There are some natural health remedies that may help alleviate symptoms of migraine.
Feverfew has been known to be effective in reducing migraines. Ginger can help in two ways; both with its anti-inflammatory and with its anti-emetic (nausea) properties. Fresh ginger appears to work the best; try making an infusion or just smelling the freshly crushed ginger for nausea. Sadly, ginger ale is not effective in migraines. Caffeine can improve and worsen a headache, so use this remedy wisely. “Caffeine-rebound headaches” are often blamed as sources of migraines, yet one cup of tea or coffee may actually help relieve a migraine. People with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those who don't have migraines. Studies suggest that magnesium may reduce frequency by more than 40 percent! Another study suggested that magnesium may be helpful in women with menstrual migraines.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) may also be helpful in reducing the frequency of migraines.
Consistent exercise (3 times a week) is effective at preventing migraines.
5-HTP may be particularly effective in reducing the severity and frequency of migraine headaches according to a clinical study by Harvard University. This is because low serotonin levels are associated with migraines and 5-HTP increases the body's production of serotonin.
Coenzyme Q10 may also help prevent migraines as clinical studies have revealed.
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