Headaches are one of the most common medical disorders that is known to affect everyone regardless of age and gender. Identified as a common sign of stress, headaches can occur due to extreme stress, emotional distress or other medical disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety or depression. Migraine is a primary type of headache, which means the disorder is not caused by another condition. Approximately, 15% of people are affected by migraine globally.
Understanding the symptoms
The intensity of headache in migraine may range from moderate to severe and sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraine is a powerful type of headache that occurs usually on one side of the head, often accompanied with nausea, vomiting or pulsing sensation that can last for at least 4 hours or more. It is a chronic disorder with regular occurrence, usually starting at the age of 20-30 years and progressing maximum during the peak productive years of life. This type of headache is not only prevalent in women but is also associated with higher disability and poor ‘quality of life’ than in men.
Ways to treat Migraine
Treatment of migraine includes treating an acute attack of headache and prevent its recurrence. Majority of patients do not require CT or MRI scans of brain unless the treating doctor strongly suspects any other disease that may mimic migraine.
Unfortunately, not many people are aware that migraine can be treated, and they need not suffer without treatment. With the right clinical diagnosis and modification in lifestyle, a person can live comfortably with migraine free days.
Treatment of migraine differs depending on the severity of the headache and the time it takes to peak. Tablets such as simple analgesics (Ibuprofen, diclofenac, paracetamol or Naproxen), injections, nasal or oral sprays or patches are usually prescribed by the doctors.
If any patient’s headache is severe and requires instant relief, a specific class of agents called as triptans can be used. These can be administered orally, by injection or by nasal/oral sprays. Apart from the pain relief, the patient may also benefit from short periods of rest and by consuming anti-vomiting and anti-vertiginous drugs whenever indicated.
How to manage Migraine?
In case of frequent and severe migraine headache, symptoms such as weakness of limbs/visual blurring are noticed. Prophylactic medication will help prevent its reoccurrence. They are helpful in reducing the attacks of headaches, severity and associated symptoms in at least 50-80% of patients. Depending on medical history of the patient, the doctor chooses the agent with least side effects, best suited for the given patient. These medicines are administered in low doses and are gradually increased to get desired results. If one agent is not effective, an alternative is prescribed and used.
To reduce the recurrence of a migraine attack, one may follow the following:
1) Avoid known triggers: This one is probably the best remedy for migraine. Every individual has their own set of specific triggers that can initiate a migraine headache. Know these triggers accurately and avoid them to prevent the occurrence.
2) Stay hydrated: Dehydration is one of the major causes for any types of headache, including migraine. Drink enough fluids, especially water to avoid a migraine headache.
3) Stop popping headache pills: Frequent use of over the counter headache pills without medical supervision can enhance the severity of migraine. Limited intake of such pills can help reduce the frequency of migraine.
4) Reduce stress and get enough rest/sleep: Stress is known to be a root cause of most of our health problems and is a strong trigger for migraine. Try stress management techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, etc., get adequate sleep, eating nutrient rich food on time to help treat and reduce the incidence of migraine headaches.
Authored by- Dr Shiva Kumar. R, Senior Consultant Neurologist & Epileptologist, Sakra World Hospital