Migraines are one of the most common complaints that adults seek medical treatment for. Nearly 12 percent of the population has migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Each year there are more than 1.2 million emergency room visits for migraines and related head pain.
Unlike the headache that you might get after a stressful day or from looking at your computer screen for too long, migraines can seriously impact your daily life - and for more than a few hours every once in a while. Over 90 percent of people who have migraines find that they're unable to work or carry on with their day normally when they have the severe headaches.
If you have migraines, you don't have to suffer in silence. The first step in getting help is understanding the problem. Learning about migraines, what causes them and what you can do about them is just the beginning. When you know what you're up against, and you know what the treatments are, you can start finding relief.
Signs and Symptoms
Not all headaches are migraines. Migraines are severe and often focused on one side of the head, can include sensitivity to light or sound, and may come with a bought of nausea (or even vomiting). Auras, which are seeing light flashes, shimmering lights, or blind spots, can also accompany migraines.
Keep in mind, not every migraine sufferer experiences each sign and symptom. For example, less than onethird of people who have migraines also have auras. During the diagnosis process, the doctor will evaluate all of your symptoms together.
Tests and Evaluations
Only a licensed medical provider can diagnose and treat migraines. Even though you can spot some of the symptoms yourself, leave it to the pros to make the true diagnosis.
During your doctor's visit, the medical provider will take a full medical history. You'll need to provide information about your headache symptoms, how often you have headaches, where your head hurts, what happens before and during your headaches, other physical symptoms, lifestyle habits (such as smoking, alcohol intake, and physical activity), and your family's medical history.
The doctor will also give you a medical exam, including a neurological test. Depending on your symptoms and the medical provider's decision-making process, you may need diagnostic testing such as an MRI.
Triggers and Treatment
If the doctor does diagnose you with a migraine, you have plenty of treatment options. Not every type of treatment works for every migraine sufferer. In some cases, avoiding a trigger (something that sets off the headache) may stop the migraines from happening. Triggers can include stress, lack of sleep, changes in activities or routine, hormonal changes (in women), or foods or drinks.
You may need to track what you do, eat, and feel before a migraine to figure out what's triggering it. Different people have different triggers. You might find that your headaches start after extreme stress while you're spouse only gets them after eating chocolate. The trigger isn't the same thing as a cause. Even though it can set off the headache, it doesn't cause you to have it.
If avoiding your triggers isn't possible or doesn't do the trick, your doctor can still provide you with help. This includes a variety of medication-related treatments as well as those that don't involve a prescription. Medications include preventive prescription drugs that are taken daily to stop the headaches before they start as well as treatments for the headache after it begins.
Some migraine sufferers also find relief through physical activity, massage, or acupuncture. These can be used alone or in combination with medical interventions to achieve results.
Do you have migraines? Contact Central Neurology for help.