Migraine headaches are very intense, causing significant pain that’s often centered on one side of the head. Often, the headaches are accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, or vision problems like tunnel vision or watery-looking “blobs” that spread across your field of view. Migraines also tend to last longer than other types of headaches, sometimes as long as 2-3 days. Sometimes, a migraine can cause visual disturbances even without pain. These headaches are called ocular migraines. Migraine headaches are more common among people with a family history of the headaches. They also tend to occur more often in women and among people between the ages of 15 and 55, but most often, they begin during childhood or young adulthood.
The exact cause of migraines hasn’t been identified, but researchers believe they’re caused by issues related to the nervous or circulatory systems, hormonal fluctuations, or the release of certain brain chemicals. Migraines can be the result of possibly a combination of all three events. Migraines usually occur in response to specific triggers, including:
Migraines progress in stages. The earliest stage occurs even before painful symptoms begin. This stage is sometimes referred to as the “prodrome,” and it’s associated with “warning signals” like bowel changes, mood changes, fatigue, food cravings, numbness, and visual disturbances. After headache pain subsides, you may feel weak and very tired. This last stage, called the postdrome, can last for 24 hours.
Migraines can’t be cured, but more recent medical research and clinical trials have uncovered newer ways of treating the underlying causes of migraines, so attacks are shorter and less frequent. The first step in preventing a migraine is to avoid the triggers if you know them. Learning how to manage stress may also help. Medications are available that can help reduce migraine frequency. When headaches do occur, pain relievers may provide some relief along with resting in a darkened, quiet room.
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