Migraine Headache

A migraine headache is an intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head. A migraine can last for 30 minutes to several hours.

CAUSES

The exact cause of a migraine headache is not always known. However, a migraine may be caused when nerves in the brain become irritated and release chemicals that cause inflammation. This causes pain.

SYMPTOMS

  • Pain on one or both sides of your head.

  • Pulsating or throbbing pain.

  • Severe pain that prevents daily activities.

  • Pain that is aggravated by any physical activity.

  • Nausea, vomiting, or both.

  • Dizziness.

  • Pain with exposure to bright lights, loud noises, or activity.

  • General sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, or smells.

Before you get a migraine, you may get warning signs that a migraine is coming (aura). An aura may include:

  • Seeing flashing lights.

  • Seeing bright spots, halos, or zig-zag lines.

  • Having tunnel vision or blurred vision.

  • Having feelings of numbness or tingling.

  • Having trouble talking.

  • Having muscle weakness.

MIGRAINE TRIGGERS

  • Alcohol.

  • Smoking.

  • Stress.

  • Menstruation.

  • Aged cheeses.

  • Foods or drinks that contain nitrates, glutamate, aspartame, or tyramine.

  • Lack of sleep.

  • Chocolate.

  • Caffeine.

  • Hunger.

  • Physical exertion.

  • Fatigue.

  • Medicines used to treat chest pain (nitroglycerine), birth control pills, estrogen, and some blood pressure medicines.

DIAGNOSIS

A migraine headache is often diagnosed based on:

  • Symptoms.

  • Physical examination.

  • A CT scan or MRI of your head.

TREATMENT

Medicines may be given for pain and nausea. Medicines can also be given to help prevent recurrent migraines.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain or discomfort as directed by your caregiver. The use of long-term narcotics is not recommended.

  • Lie down in a dark, quiet room when you have a migraine.

  • Keep a journal to find out what may trigger your migraine headaches. For example, write down:

  • What you eat and drink.

  • How much sleep you get.

  • Any change to your diet or medicines.

  • Limit alcohol consumption.

  • Quit smoking if you smoke.

  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, or as recommended by your caregiver.

  • Limit stress.

  • Keep lights dim if bright lights bother you and make your migraines worse.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your migraine becomes severe.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a stiff neck.

  • You have vision loss.

  • You have muscular weakness or loss of muscle control.

  • You start losing your balance or have trouble walking.

  • You feel faint or pass out.

  • You have severe symptoms that are different from your first symptoms.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.