Common migraine headaches affect about 6 out of 100 people

Common migraine headaches is a disorder involving recurrent headaches, which may be accompanied by symptoms other than headache but which rarely include a preliminary warning (called an aura). They are a common type of chronic headache. They most commonly occur in women and usually begin between the ages of 10 and 46. In some cases, they appear to run in families.

Migraines occur when blood vessels of the head and neck spasm or constrict, which decreases blood flow to the brain. Minutes to hours later, the blood vessels dilate (enlarge), resulting in a severe headache. Inflammation around the blood vessels also occurs in some cases.

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Common migraine headaches may be accompanied by symptoms other than headache but only rarely includes any preceeding symptoms (aura). Migraine may also appear as classic migraine (a migraine preceded by other symptoms) and other rare forms.

Multiple mechanisms trigger the spasm and subsequent blood vessel dilation. Attacks of migraine headaches may be associated with:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Bright lights and loud noises
  • Relaxation after a period of physical or mental stress
  • Prolonged muscle tension (or tension headache)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Missed meals
  • Specific foods
  • Alcohol use and caffeine
  • Menstrual periods
  • Use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)

Foods that have been associated with migraine in some people include foods containing the amino acid tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, some beans), chocolates, nuts, peanut butter, fruits (avocado, banana, citrus fruit), onions, dairy products, baked goods, meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, salami, cured meats), foods containing monosodium glutamate (an additive in many foods), and any processed, fermented, pickled or marinated foods.

Symptoms of migraine headaches

  • Headache
  • Throbbing, pulsating
  • Usually worse on the sides of the forehead
  • May be on only one side of the forehead
  • May be severe or dull
  • Commonly lasts 6 to 48 hours
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling that the room or oneself is moving (vertigo)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • After an attack: ; dullness ; need for increased sleep; neck pain

Treatment for common migraine headaches

There is no medical cure for common migraine headaches. The goals of treatment include controlling the symptoms and preventing further attacks.

Several medications may be advised for relief of symptoms, because the response of migraine to medications is highly variable. If a medication has been effective in relieving a previous migraine, it may be tried before others.

Over-the-counter analgesics may reduce pain if they are taken early in the development of the headache. If mild analgesics are ineffective, vasoconstricting or other medications may be beneficial. Ergotamine tartrate preparations constrict the arteries of the head and may be used alone or in combination with other drugs such as caffeine (Cafergot), phenobarbital, or Fioricet.

Propoxyphene or other medications that relieve pain or inflammation may provide relief for some people. Nausea should be treated early with Reglan, Compazine, or other anti-emetics.

Preventive medications for migraine headaches include propranolol, amitriptyline, ergonovine, cyproheptadine, clonidine, methysergide, calcium channel antagonists, valproic acid, carbamazepine, topamax, and many others.

Several medications may need to be tried before a medication that is effective in preventing migraine headaches is found.

There are a number of natural nutrients that are known to help this condition. You may want to consider a health supplement specifically balanced to help correct the chemical imbalances in the brain, often times causing migraine headaches.

Our personal approach to preventing and treating migraine headaches


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