Plural or singular, to have one is incredibly difficult. For me, I want to bang my head against a wall, in an attempt to make the outside of my head hurt worse than the inside. But I don’t do it because I know how much worse the inside would feel. My eyes are in pain, my head is pounding as if my brain has swollen and is putting pressure on every nerve possible. The pain travels into my face and down the back of my neck.
All light has to be blocked, I can’t handle one little stream of light from a window. I have my windows blacked out with black curtains so no light can sneak in when I get a migraine. And no noise, no sound whatsoever. I need silence, total silence. And my ice pack, it is my one saving grace, it keeps me from throwing up and helps the overall misery that is a migraine. These are the few tricks I have that help ease it long enough to allow me to fall asleep, if I can just get to sleep, it will usually be eased by the time I wake up. But I have to be careful how I move, how I introduce light back into my world as well as sound. Because a migraine, for me, can last for days.
A migraine is a severe, painful headache that can be preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days. Migraine is a common problem affecting 36 million Americans, about 12% of the population.
Migraines often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraines may progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome, though you may not experience all stages.
Warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.
Fast facts on migraines
Here are some key points about migraines.
- The cause of migraines is still largely unknown.
- Migraines can be preceded by an aura of sensory disturbances followed by a severe one-sided headache.
- Approximately 12% of Americans get migraine headaches.
- Migraine tends to affect people between 15-55 years of age.
- Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches such as allergies, light and stress.
- Some people get a warning prodrome, preceding the onset of a migraine headache.
- Many migraine sufferers can prevent a full-blown attack by recognizing and acting upon the warning signs.
- Over-the-counter medications can eliminate or reduce pain.
- Specific medications can help some sufferers.
- People who suffer from severe attacks can take preventative medicines.
What triggers migraine headaches?
Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include:
- Allergies and allergic reactions
- Bright lights, loud noises, flickering lights, smoky rooms, temperature changes, strong smells and certain odors or perfumes
- Physical or emotional stress, tension, anxiety, depression, excitement
- Physical triggers such as tiredness, jet lag, exercise
- Changes in sleep patterns or irregular sleep
- Smoking or exposure to smoke
- Skipping meals or fasting causing low blood sugar
- Hormonal triggers such as menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, menopause
- Tension headaches
- Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs and salami)
- Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products and fermented or pickled foods
- Medication such as sleeping tablets, the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy.
Triggers do not always cause migraines and avoiding triggers does not always prevent migraines.
For me, the triggers are being out in the heat for too long, and by too long I mean an hour or so. Dehydration, allergies and MSG are also triggers for me.
Symptoms of migraines
Symptoms of migraine can occur a while before the headache, immediately before the headache, during the headache and after the headache. Although not all migraines are the same, typical symptoms include:
- Moderate to severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head during an attack, but can occur on either side of the head
- The pain is usually a severe, throbbing, pulsing pain
- Increasing pain during physical activity
- Inability to perform regular activities due to pain
- Feeling sick and physically being sick
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound, relieved by lying quietly in a darkened room
- Some people experience other symptoms such as sweating, temperature changes, tummy ache and diarrhea.
Migraines with aura
Many people experience migraines with auras or warning signs just before or during the head pain, but many do not. Auras are perceptual disturbances such as:
- Confusing thoughts or experiences
- The perception of strange lights, sparkling or flashing lights
- Zigzag lines in the visual field
- Blind spots or blank patches in the vision
- Pins and needles in an arm or leg
- Difficulty speaking
- Stiffness in the shoulders, neck or limbs
- Unpleasant smells.
If any migraine sufferer experiences unusual or worrying features that they do not normally have, then they should seek medical help rather than blaming the migraine.