Got Questions?

Migraine is one condition that is not very easy to understand and hence, this is what adds to further complexity of the condition. Here we give your some of the frequently asked questions so that you get your clarity on migraine.

Is a migraine headache always experienced only on one side of the head?

Unlike most headaches, a migraine usually strikes on one side of the head but sometimes can be bilateral also. The pain does not stay at one place for long and may travel from one side to the other. Most people describe the pain as a one-sided throbbing or pounding headache.

Is it true that migraines can start only in the daytime?

Migraine can start at any time, either during the day or night. It usually lasts for 4 hours or even longer. A really bad migraine can last as long as a week.

How long does it take for migraine pain to blow up?

Migraine pain usually begins as a dull ache and then escalates into a full-blown headache within a couple of hours. Some can feel a migraine coming on a few days in advance.
Some people may experience subtle signs like increased sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, as well as mood swings. Because most migraine medicines work best when taken early, it is a good idea to recognize these signs and start your prescribed medicine as soon as you experience them.

What are the common triggers for migraine?

Migraine triggers vary from person to person. Here are some of the common triggers:

  • Some food items (Nuts, cheese, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, caffeine)
  • Strong odours such as perfumes or insecticides.
  • Bright and fluorescent lights
  • Loud sounds
  • Weather Changes
  • Stress
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Certain medications (like birth control pills, nitroglycerin and atenolol)
  • Alcohol intake
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Dehydration
  • Hormonal changes in women (menstruation, pregnancy)

In a study conducting for analyzing migraine triggers, the most common trigger reported was “emotional stress” (59%),  followed by “too much or little sleep” (53.5%), ” strong odors” (46.5%), and “missing meals” (39%).

Is it true that food can trigger migraine?

A component called tyramine which occurs in certain foods can trigger a migraine attack. Some well-known triggers are chocolate, peanuts, cheese, processed meats, alcohol, artificial sweetener and fermented foods like soy sauce.  The foods that set off a migraine may be different for different people. So it is better if you list down the foods that you have eaten just before an attack sets in, so you can recognize your food trigger and avoid it.

What is the connection between periods and migraine?

Periods (menses) have a definite relation to migraine. In a study conducted for analyzing migraine triggers, 62% of females reported periods (menses) as a trigger, and 67% of these reported their menstrual migraine attack to be more severe or of longer duration than their non-menstrual attacks.

Is it true that women are more likely to get migraines?

About 3 out of every 4 people who get migraine headache are women. A staggering 18 to 25 percent of women suffer from migraines. In fact, the only time migraines are more common in men is when they’re young – before puberty hits.

Is quality of life negatively affected by Migraine?

Migraines can not only be distressing, but they can be debilitating. Some people may not be able to cope with their daily routine and perform everyday chores like cooking, cleaning, household work, taking care of children, shopping , traveling etc.  because of the suffering imposed by migraine.    Migraine symptoms like increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, etc may make the sufferer want to be in isolation. He or she may be unable to enjoy anything; neither meals nor outings. Thus, migraine can totally make life monotonous and chaotic.

Migraines can significantly hinder one’s work performance too. In fact, migraine sufferers lose 6.5 days of work per year on an average. Many report several days of working with a migraine headache leading to loss in the quality of work. Migraine sufferers should be encouraged to discuss their condition with their employers. Employers may also play an important role in helping prevent future attacks triggered by stress by re-evaluating workloads and deadlines.

When is preventive medication prescribed for migraine?

Your doctor might prescribe daily preventive medicine if:

  • You get two or more migraine episodes a month
  • Your attacks last more than 24 hours
  • Your headaches disrupt your lifestyle for days at a time
  • You usually use abortive migraine medication more than twice a week
  • The medicine you use to treat migraine headache does not work

There are different kinds of daily preventive medicines, only your doctor can decide which will suit you the best depending upon your triggers and your condition.

Does Migraine increase or decrease with age?

For most people, migraine attacks peak in the prime of life, viz.  between 35 and 40 years, then diminish with age.

If your trigger for migraine has been hormonal fluctuation, then it is likely that migraine headaches will increase just before menopause due to hormonal disturbances.

Is migraine hereditary?

If you are a migraine sufferer, there is a good chance that you should blame it on your genes. About 4 out of 5 people with migraines have a relative who has them too. If one of your parents has migraine, you have a 50% chance of getting it . If both parents suffer from migraine, your risk rises to 75%.

Is migraine treatable?

Migraine can be very well managed with the right combination of medicines, trigger avoidance, behavioural measures and lifestyle management.The medical treatment regimen for migraine falls into 2 groups—acute and preventive therapy; and only your doctor can accurately arrive at the best combination of management measures that are most suitable to your condition.

What is the relation between physical fitness and migraine prevention?

Migraines can be warded off with regular physical exercise. Thirty minutes of any type of outdoor activity be it jogging, walking, aerobic exercise, swimming or yoga – can help in pain control. If stress is your trigger then aerobic exercises and Pranayam can help you control stress, thereby preventing migraines. If you haven’t been active for a while, go easy in the initial stages because for some people, exercise itself is a headache trigger.

How can I tell the difference between a migraine and a bad headache?

There are several subtle differences that can help you distinguish between migraine headache and a bad headache. General headaches are not as debilitating as migraine, they will not keep you from doing your daily chores hence understanding the intensity and the quality of your pain can help you find out whether it is a migraine or a general headache.  Determine where your pain is located. If it is concentrated only on one side of the head as opposed to both sides then it could be migraine.

Moreover, if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting or any other sensory disturbances such as aversion to light, sound or smell then it can be a migraine headache.

Are there any tests to confirm if I am suffering from migraine?

There are no accurate investigative tests to confirm whether you are a migraine sufferer. Only a doctor can rightly diagnose your condition based on your history and pattern of symptoms. Hence, it will be beneficial for you to maintain a migraine diary to list down all that you ate, did or experienced before or during a migraine attack. Maintaining a migraine diary will help both you and your doctor to understand your condition and triggers better. Occasionally a doctor may advice a CT or MRI scan, just to rule out the possibility of other serious conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

Do children suffer from migraine too?

Yes, migraine symptoms can strike when young. Children and adolescents can also fall prey to migraine.  By age 15, 5% of all children and adolescents have had migraines headaches. However, many boys outgrow their migraine condition as they grow older, but unfortunately the frequency of migraine may increase in girls due to hormonal fluctuations. The frequency of migraine is three times more likely in adolescent girls than in boys.

Does migraine present differently in children as compared to adults?

There are special presentations of migraine that occur in childhood, referred to as childhood periodic syndromes. They include cyclical vomiting, abdominal migraine, and benign positional vertigo of childhood. The headache may be mild or absent with these syndromes. They present with cyclical vomiting or abdominal pain, or episodes of vertigo at a very young age. The vertigo my start in toddlers with the initial episodes of cyclical vomiting and abdominal pain in young children. These manifestations may persist in various forms into the adult years. Often they resolve and the more typical symptoms of migraine in adults become evident.

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