Not every headache is a migraine, but a recurrent, strong headache may tend to be a migraine. What differentiates a migraine headache from other headaches? Here are the key characteristics that help identify migraine headaches:
A migraine headache is characterized by an agonizing or dull ache, nausea, or vomiting. This tends to become worse behind one eye or ear and is usually experienced on one side of the head. The pain may last for an hour or two.
· People suffering from migraines often get prodromal symptoms (symptoms that happen before the actual onset of the headache) like seeing flashes of light, nausea, and tingling on the face.
· Migraine symptoms are irregular and tend to disappear or wean in middle age, during pregnancy, and premenstrually (just before the periods).
It is estimated that 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches. Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, doctors ascribe migraines to several factors. There seems to be evidence that migraines can be hereditary. Statistics have found that 70% of migraine sufferers have another family member suffering from migraine headaches. Such a person born with a tendency to have migraines is susceptible to triggers that do not affect other people including stress, tension, environmental or weather changes, bright light or sunlight, and certain food. Even alcohol can aggravate migraine headaches.
Certain food items that tend to cause migraines include chocolate, nuts, yogurt, processed meat (hot dogs, bacon, salami), aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) and dairy products. These are just a few examples of the many food products that trigger migraine headaches. Based on the individual genetic makeup, some people tend to be more susceptible to migraine attacks triggered by such foods.
For effective migraine treatment, experts recommend taking medication as soon as the prodormal features start showing. It is easier to control the migraine headache before it becomes severe rather than curing the headache after its onset. Sleeping and relaxing, preferably in a dark room, helps in such cases.
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