Migraines: Fact vs. Fiction

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If you are a migraineur, a patient that suffers from migraines, you know that they are not your average headache. Migraines are headaches associated with severe throbbing pain or pulsing sensations usually on one side of the head or behind an eye accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The fourth most prevalent disease in the world, migraines affect many and can last for hours or days. They are often so severe that they interfere with everyday activities, often causing sufferers to remain in bed. While the pain and occurrences of migraines are nothing new, some recent developments in research and treatment are not common knowledge. If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, read on to decipher facts from fiction.

Migraine Facts

It is widely believed that migraines are caused by dysfunctional blood vessels in the brain. However, experts have recently developed a new theory that could help with moving towards a solution. The thought is that migraines are likely the result of a dysfunction in the brain stem centers that regulate blood vessels and pain sensation. Migraineurs may have a hyperactive brain that is exceptionally sensitive to specific triggers such as pungent smells, lack of sleep and or changes in weather. A trigger, unique to each person, sets off a wave of brain activity by exciting thousands of neurons. This can lead to a series of changes involving pain signaling, inflammation, and alteration in blood vessel tone.

While susceptibility to migraines may have to do with genetics, it is unclear whether genes influence what triggers individuals respond to. Experts do agree that one trigger isn’t always enough to cause a migraine; however, trigger stacking increases chances. For example, sleeping poorly, followed by an especially stressful day and finished with a glass of wine could be three stackable triggers that will inevitably lead to an episode. The good news is that even if you inherit migraines from a parent, you may be able to stave them off by learning and controlling your triggers.

Migraine Treatment

The ideal prevention when it comes to migraines is to avoid triggers. This, of course, means determining personal triggers first. Keeping a migraine diary is an excellent place to start. Jot down all that you ate, how much you slept, stressors, changes, how long your headache lasted, or if you felt symptoms prior to the pain. Anything you can record will help unlock specific triggers. Once triggers are identified, finding ways to avoid them is a start. Life happens though, and migraines may still creep in. The good news is that in 2018, the FDA began approving a game-changing class of migraine drugs aimed at preventing headaches. These meds block CGRP, a pain-intensifying substance released during migraines. They offer minimal side-effects and can be self-injected monthly or quarterly. Finally, there are options beyond meds for depression, seizures, or high blood pressure that caused many side-effects. With continued research and development maybe one day migraines will be a thing of the past. If you are concerned that you are experiencing migraines, make an appointment with your doctor. Don’t let occasional headaches turn into a chronic condition. There are things you can do to ease your pain.