Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to prevent Migraine

Migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by altered bodily perceptions, headaches, and nausea. Physiologically, the migraine headache is a neurological condition more common to women than to men. Etymologically, the French word migraine derives from the Greek hemicrania (half skull) and the Old English megrim (severe headache).

A migraine headache preceded by neurological symptoms that may include visual disturbances such as scintillations — sensation of flashing lights or lines — or a blind spot; also known as classic migraine.

Migraine headaches are one of the most common problems seen in emergency departments and doctors' offices. Migraines are due to changes in the brain and surrounding blood vessels.

Migraine headaches typically last from 4-72 hours and vary in frequency from daily to fewer than 1 per year. Migraine affects about 15% of the population. Three times as many women as men have migraines. More than 80% of people with migraines (called migraineurs) have other members in the family who have them too.

Different types of migraine headaches
  • Common migraine accounts for 80% of migraines. There is no "aura" before a common migraine.
  • People with classic migraines experience an aura before their headaches. Most often, an aura is a visual disturbance (outlines of lights or jagged light images). Classic migraines are usually much more severe than common migraines.
  • Status migrainosus is a migraine that does not go away by itself.
There are a few factors to remember if you wish to prevent migraines. The first factor is to try and figure out what exactly is causing your migraine. Recognizing when your migraines occur and what is setting them off will be a major help. These are called migraine triggers, and they are different in each person.
As you recognize the pattern that your migraines are taking, it should be easier to prevent migraines from occurring. The best time to prevent migraines is just before they occur; this is when administering the drugs will be of most help. However, avoiding the trigger situations will also help prevent migraines.
Many migraines are caused by the lifestyles we lead. Common causes of migraines are stress, lack or excess of sleep, and too much caffeine and nicotine. The menstrual cycle can also be a trigger for migraines in women. Depression, alcohol, dieting, certain foods, bright lights, and even smells can all set off migraines.

How to Prevent Migraine?

  • Stop any activity that you are engaged in. As soon as you feel any migraine symptoms, rest. Start treatment as soon as possible to minimize the severity of your migraine. Avoid walking or bending down if it worsens your pain.
  • Turn off the lights in the room. As soon as you feel the symptoms of a migraine coming on, turn off the radio or TV. Migraines can increase sensitivity to sound that can make even the slightest noise unbearable. Relax and lie down in a dark room. Try to sleep.
  • Wrap an ice pack in cloth. Place the ice pack on the back of your neck. Use the ice pack to apply gentle pressure to areas that are painful on your scalp.
  • Place a warm compress to your head or neck. Warm compresses can help to relax tense muscles around your neck and shoulders. Try a warm shower or soak in a warm bath.
  • Massage your neck, scalp and temples with peppermint, eucalyptus or lavender oil. Muscle tension in your shoulders and neck can worsen migraine pain.
  • Drink caffeine. Drinking small amounts of caffeine can help constrict dilated blood vessels that occur in migraines. Drink a cup of coffee, tea or caffeinated soda can help ease your symptoms.
  • Visualize removing the pain from your head. Imagine pushing the pain out of your head through your nose or mouth. Visualization can serve as a distraction from your migraine
Medication for Migraine

There are several families of prescribed medicine used to treat and get rid of migraines. If you think you need prescription-strength treatment for your migraines, talk to a doctor about your options. Below are some of the most common types of medicines prescribed to get rid of migraines:

Blood pressure medication (antihypertensives), including beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs. Atenolol, Verapamil, Lisinopril, Candesartan, (respectively) are examples of blood pressure medications used to get rid of migraines.

Triptans are a family of medicines which (loosely) work to activate and increase serotonin in the brain (and lots of other complicated medical things). Imitrex is a popular triptan used to treat migraines.

Antidepressants and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are also used for their role in the serotonin producation, as well as other factors.

This is by no means a complete list of your options, but rather a place to start with questions for your healthcare provider, so that you can do what you need to do to get rid of your migraines and get on with your life.