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Migraine May 24, 2007

Posted by prasannam in Digestion.

A migraine is a very painful type of headache. People who get migraines often describe the pain as pulsing or throbbing in one area of the head. During migraines, people are very sensitive to light and sound. They may also become nauseated and vomit. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Some people can tell when they are about to have a migraine because they see flashing lights or zigzag lines or they temporarily lose their vision.

Many things can trigger a migraine. These include

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Lack of food or sleep
  • Exposure to light
  • Hormonal changes (in women)

Doctors used to believe migraines were linked to the opening and narrowing of blood vessels in the head. Now they believe the cause is related to genes that control the activity of some brain cells. Medicines can help prevent migraine attacks or help relieve symptoms of attacks when they happen. For many people, treatments to relieve stress can also help.

Possible symptoms of migraines

  • Intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side of your head or both sides.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Changes in how you see, including blurred vision or blind spots
  • Being bothered by light, noise or odors
  • Feeling tired and/or confused
  • Stopped-up nose
  • Feeling cold or sweaty
  • Stiff or tender neck
  • Light-headedness
  • Tender scalp

Different kinds of migraine headaches

Classic migraines start with a warning sign, called an aura. The aura often involves changes in the way you see. You may see flashing lights and colors. You may temporarily lose some of your vision, such as your side vision.

You may also feel a strange prickly or burning sensation, or have muscle weakness on one side of your body. You may have trouble communicating. You may also feel depressed, irritable and restless.

Auras last about 15 to 30 minutes. Auras may occur before or after your head pain, and sometimes the pain and aura overlap, or the pain never occurs. The head pain of classic migraines may occur on one side of your head or on both sides.

Common migraines don’t start with an aura. Common migraines may start more slowly than classic migraines, last longer and interfere more with daily activities. The pain of common migraines may be on only one side of your head.

How long do migraines usually last?

Migraines may last from 4 to 72 hours. They may happen only once or twice a year, or as often as daily. Women are more likely to have migraines than men.

What things may set off a migraine?

Certain things that can set off migraines in some people include the following:

Aged, canned, cured or processed meat, including bologna, game, ham, herring, hot dogs, pepperoni and sausage

Aged cheese

Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine



Beans, including pole, broad, lima, Italian, navy, pinto and garbanzo

Brewer’s yeast, including fresh yeast coffee cake, donuts and sourdough bread

Caffeine (in excess)

Canned soup or bouillon cubes

Chocolate, cocoa and carob

Cultured dairy products, such as buttermilk and sour cream



Meat tenderizer

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Nuts and peanut butter

Onions, except small amounts for flavoring


Passion fruit

Pea pods

Pickled, preserved or marinated foods, such as olives and pickles, and some snack foods


Red plums


Seasoned salt

Snow peas

Soy sauce

How are migraines treated?

There are 2 types of migraine treatments. Some treatments are used to relieve the headache pain. Most of these treatments should be started as soon as you think you’re getting a migraine. The other type includes treatments that are used to prevent headaches before they occur.

Can nonprescription medicines help relieve the pain?

Yes. Nonprescription medicines can help migraine pain. They include aspirin, acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), an acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine combination (one brand name: Excedrin Migraine), ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin), naproxen (brand name: Aleve), and ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis KT).

What about prescription medicines?

People with more severe pain may need prescription medicine. A medicine called ergotamine (brand name: Ergostat) can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine (brand names: Migranal, D.H.E. 45) is related to ergotamine and can be helpful.

Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan (brand name: Imitrex), zolmitriptan (brand name: Zomig), naratriptan (brand name: Amerge) rizatriptan (brand name: Maxalt), almotriptan (brand name: Axert), eletriptan (brand name: Relpax) and frovatriptan (brand name: Frova).

If the pain won’t go away, stronger medicine may be needed, such as a narcotic (brand name: Stadol nasal spray) or medicines that contain a barbiturate. These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously.

Can medicine help prevent migraines?

Medicine to prevent migraines may be helpful if your headaches happen more than twice a month or if your headaches make it hard for you to work and function. Examples of medicines used to prevent migraines include propranolol (brand name: Inderal), timolol (brand name: Blocadren), divalproex (brand name: Depakote) and some antidepressants.

What else can I do to prevent migraines?

Try to avoid foods or other things that seem to cause migraines for you. Get plenty of sleep. Try to relax and reduce the stress in your life.



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