Intense pain. Sensitivity to light. Nausea. Noises make it even worse. If you've ever experienced one, you can probably identify the symptoms of a migraine headache.
Migraine headaches affect as many as 6% of men, and 17% of women at some point in their lives. Adult women are the most likely candidates for migraines and the disorder often begins sometime between 5 to 35 years of age. Lasting as long as several hours to several days, many people describe it as the worst head pain ever experienced. But, while some people have migraines several times a week, others only have a migraine once or twice a year. So, what is a migraine in medical terms?
What is a migraine?
Migraine headaches are classified as vascular headaches. This means that the brain's blood vessels (or, vascular system) don't behave they way they should. Although the precise cause of migraines remains unknown, scientists think that abnormal blood flow is key to understanding migraines. Brain chemicals called neuropeptides are released during a headache which may cause the blood vessels to dilate or become inflamed.
People who have migraines are thought to have blood vessels that over respond to migraine 'triggers.' These triggers may include:
Types of migraines
Most migraine headaches are classified as classic or common, the symptoms of which we'll learn more about in the next section. But, for now, let's point out specific types of migraines, which include:
Basilar artery migraine - where a major brain artery near the base of the brain is disturbed
Benign exert ional headache - here, physical activity brings on the headache, whether it is just a cough or sneeze, or from running
Headache-free migraine - here, no headache is experienced, but symptoms that accompany migraines are felt
Hemiplegic migraine - temporary paralysis for one side of the body occurs, and may accompany feelings of vertigo, in addition to the headache itself
Opthalmoplegic migraine - the pain is located near the eye, and symptoms may involve more vision-specific issues
Status migrainosus - this severe type of headache requires hospitalization, as the headache can last for more than 72 hours. Certain medications, depression, and anxiety may precede this type of migraine headache.
Most migraine sufferers are never diagnosed or treated, even though this is a chronic condition. If one of your parents has experienced migraines, then you may be more susceptible to getting migraines yourself. You should see your doctor if you experience what may be migraine symptoms, so your doctor can work with you to identify and help relieve the pain. What, then, are the symptoms of migraine headaches? Read here to learn more.
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