A migraine headache is described as throbbing, painful episodes that last from 4-72 hours. Once an episode starts, it can be so intense that daily activities are disrupted. Even though a migraine headache can cause significant discomfort, it will not cause lasting damage.
Even experts could not determine the exact cause of a migraine headache. It usually runs in families but it is not clear why some develop one and others do not. The potential triggers tend to vary from one individual to another. The usual triggers include the following:
- Not eating or skipping on meals
- Poor sleeping habits
- Changes in the normal routine
- Red wine
- Strong scents or odors
- Monosodium glutamate
What are the indications?
The characteristic symptom of a migraine headache is a throbbing sensation on one side of the head. There is also nausea and vomiting.
Light, noise, activity and certain scents can worsen the headache. The pain might move from one side of the head to the other or it is present on both sides at the same time.
Some individuals experience an aura prior to an episode. Once an aura starts, there are spots, flashing lights and wavy lines. The arms, hand or face might feel numb or tingle. An aura typically starts around 30 minutes before a headache but most do not have any auras.
A migraine headache could not be cured but medications and other treatment options can help the individual feel better and reduce the frequency.
Initially, the doctor might decide to use an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen. Remember that it is vital to be safe with medications by carefully reading the instructions on the label.
If not effective, the doctor might prescribe stronger variants to control the headache.
What should I do if a migraine headache is about to occur?
- Stop any activity and take the prescribed medications. Do not wait for the migraine headache to worsen.
- Rest in a dark, quiet room. Instruct the individual to close his/her eyes and try to relax or sleep. Avoid watching TV or reading.
- Place a cold pack or cool cloth over the sore area.
It is vital to be careful when using the medications. Using them often can trigger another headache when the medication is no longer used which is called a rebound headache.