Migraines, once known as vascular headaches, are a common type of a primary headache, defined as a headache that doesn’t have an underlying cause such as an allergy or sinus infection. These conditions can cause secondary headaches.
While migraines aren’t directly linked to vascular conditions, there is evidence that women who suffer from migraines have elevated risk for vascular disease, according to the BMJ.
Migraine Symptoms Can Begin Before the Actual Event
Many migraine sufferers recognize symptoms that occur during the premonitory, or prodrome, stage a day or two before a migraine actually strikes. This is the first of four migraine stages.
During this stage, a person may notice increased thirst and a tendency to yawn a lot. Mood changes are common, as well as cravings for certain foods. Some people experience a stiff neck and digestive problems. These migraine symptoms also occur among women just before their menstrual periods begin.
The second migraine stage, aura, doesn’t affect most sufferers but when it happens, it can strike just before a migraine sets in or as it runs its course. Auras occur when blood vessels attached to the trigeminal nerve responsible for facial sensations stimulate it for no obvious reason and send it to the brain as pain messages, according to neurologists who spoke with Health.com.
Patients may experience unsettling and painful visual disturbances including bright spots or flashes of light, loss of vision, or uneven and wavy vision. Some people hear sounds or experience numbness and have uncontrollable jerking in their limbs. In rare instances, the aura brings on weakness in the limbs, a condition called hemiplegic migraine.
Migraine Attack: The Main Event
A migraine can last from several hours to a few days. Universal migraine symptoms are a throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head. Many sufferers also have light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and blurred vision.
Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that the intense pain from migraines occurs when brain cells trigger chemicals like serotonin and narrow the blood vessels. Fluctuating estrogen levels experienced just before and during the early stages of menstruation cause similar disruptions in blood vessels.
Migraines Are So Miserable They Have the Fourth Stage
The last migraine phase, called post-drome, leaves many sufferers feeling weak and sensitive to light and sound for about 24 hours after a migraine has passed.
Others experience dizziness or confusion, and some people revert back to the moodiness of the prodrome period. This weakness, plus the intense pain of the attack stage, are the most reliable signs of a migraine.
Treating a Migraine Can Also Include Preventing One
For some patients, it’s vital to treat migraines by preventing them in the first place. Those who have four or more in a month are candidates for preventive medications.
- Beta blockers used to treat coronary artery disease and high blood pressure block the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) to slow down the heart rate and keep blood vessels open.
- Calcium channel blockers, also called calcium antagonists, relax and widen blood vessels.
- Tricyclic antidepressants can reduce the number of migraines by lowering serotonin. One particular medication, amitriptyline, has been shown to prevent migraines.
Treating Migraine Pain, and Quickly!
Many migraine sufferers take NSAIDs like Aleve for pain relief. Taking them during the prodrome stage may even circumvent a migraine.
Sleep is another way to treat a migraine and many sufferers fall asleep (some say they pass out!) from sheer pain.
If you’re a woman experiencing migraines, you may have an undiagnosed vascular condition. Contact Palm Vascular today to make an appointment.