There are headaches and there are migraine headaches. And the difference between the two is enormous. Most routine headaches last just a few hours with only slight discomfort, compared to migraines, which are extremely painful and can last up to three days—or more.
Migraines have a variety of symptoms. Patients may or may not have all of the “standard indicators.” But some must be present for the headache to be considered a migraine. These include:
- An “aura,”
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to sound
- Throbbing pain on at least one side of the head
Despite the medical world’s best efforts, it remains difficult for sufferers to find the right medication to stop an oncoming headache or quickly stop one once it’s underway.
The Mayo Clinic advises patients to take pain medication as soon as symptoms arise. Over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may help at the beginning. But if the pain continues, these medications won’t be effective and probably won’t affect a severe headache in the slightest. Many physicians will prescribe “routine” or “repeat” sufferers with daily medication to help keep migraines at bay and/or reduce their duration and severity.
In addition to milder, over-the-counter drugs, a variety of pharmacy-strength medicines as well as opiates can potentially abate pain.
More than one in 10 Americans suffers from migraines. And women are more likely to suffer from them than men. While specific causes are unknown, researchers believe that brain chemicals as well as blood vessels and nerves in the brain affect any person’s likelihood of suffering from migraine headaches. Hormones and certain foods as well as stress are very likely triggers. Unfortunately, aged and/or fermented products such as cheese, red wine, soy sauce, pickles and pepperoni can trigger a migraine if the trigger comes from a substance called Tyramine. This substance is formed by the breakdown of the amino acid thyosine. Getting enough consistent sleep is also important. And while no one can escape stress or difficult times, many people who listen to relaxing music and/or participate in slow-moving exercises such as yoga or tai-chi claim to find a certain amount of relief.
Researchers are investigating a potential connection between depression and migraine headaches. While this correlation isn’t new, what is new is the fact that researchers are discovering a link between the two which may result from genetic factors. According to a recent article on migraines and depression, author Steven Reinberg reported in an online edition of Neurology, that according to a Dutch research study of 2,652 people, 360 had migraines and 977 had depression. Twenty-five percent of the migraine suffers also had depression compared to 13 percent of the study participants who didn’t get migraine headaches.
While the jury is still out, one way patients can help their physicians diagnose and treat migraines is to keep and share a diary of their symptoms. If you suffer from headaches, we want you to find relief because MCH cares about your health. Call today to find a physician and/or to schedule an appointment with your doctor (909) 336-3651.