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A migraine is a neurological disorder that causes severe head pain, nausea, dizziness and other side effects. There are different severities and types of migraines and associated pain including having constant migraine headaches and cluster migraine headaches, which includes getting migraines over and over again in a short period of time. A migraine is very different from a headache in the severity, treatment, cause and how long they will last.

Migraines are inherited and treatments are still being discovered, though a cure has not been found. Many triggers exist, though these also vary depending on the individual. According to the American Migraine Foundation, about 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches, which are approximately 36 million people. They are more common in women than men and about 25% of households have at least one person suffering from migraines. The American Migraine Foundation has also mentioned that people with migraines often have other disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and extreme fatigue.

Causes and Risk Factors of Migraine

Doctors are still not entirely sure what causes migraine headaches and why some get them and others dont. Some common risk factors for migraines include being a female, having relatives with migraine headaches and being pregnant. Most people experience their first migraine between 10 and 45 years old though they may be later in life. It is uncommon for a child to experience a migraine headache younger than 10. Migraines are caused when there is abnormal brain activity which happens with different triggers.

Some of the common triggers are withdrawal from caffeine, hormone level changes, sleep changes, physical stress, missing meals and exposure to tobacco smoke. Some foods can also trigger migraines including baked goods, dairy, peanut butter, citrus fruit, bananas, chocolate, nuts, processed foods and foods with tyramine, such as aged cheese, chicken liver, fig and red wine. Having migraine headaches also puts you at risk for complications such as abdominal issues due to excessive use of pain relievers, rebound headaches after the migraine, serotonin syndrome, which is a drug interaction that can be fatal and the side effects of migraines like dizziness and nausea.

Symptoms, Signs and Testsof Migraine

It is easy to confuse a headache and migraine because they often start the same; with pain in the head. However, there are a variety of signs and symptoms of migraines which set them apart from regular headaches. Signs include eye pain, blurry vision, tunnel vision, temporary blind spots, nausea and possibly vomiting, dizziness, confusion, not being able to communicate properly, excessive yawning and difficulty concentrating.

Pain felt from a migraine headache varies greatly and may include pain on the side of the head, neck and shoulder or behind the eyes, throbbing or pounding in the head, pulsating sensation, a dull ache that worsens over time and pain lasting between 6 and 48 hours. Additional side effects of a migraine include getting the chills, increased urination, fatigue, loss of appetite, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, sweating and sensitivity to sound or light. Diagnosing migraines usually include going over your family history and symptoms, physical exam, CT scan or MRI scan, EEG and possibly a lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Migraine

Unfortunately, there isnt a cure for migraines; it is considered a chronic condition. Many people get warning signs of a migraine coming on and can quickly take medication while others wake up with a migraine where medication may do very little to remedy it. The best way to treat migraine headaches is to contact a medical professional who can help determine the nature behind your headaches. A doctor can also pinpoint triggers that may drive you to this intense pain.

Frequent migraines may require medications such as those for high blood pressure, antidepressants, seizure medications and Botox injections. A medical professional will be able to determine which of these are necessary for your specific situation. If you have a migraine headache, you can start by drinking caffeine, getting something to eat and taking a pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin. It helps to get rest and stay away from light or noise.