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Are Migraines Making You Suffer Constant Headaches?

Are Migraines Making You Suffer Constant Headaches?

By: Dr. Ronald... | Mar 30, 2010 | 1031 words | 163 views
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If you suffer from constant headaches, you probably know the feeling of one coming on. There you are, at your desk or in the car, and your vision gets a bit blurry. You may see spots of light and feel a bit nauseous. Before long, all you want to do is lie down in a dark room to ease the pain and throbbing in your head.

This is not an ordinary headache – it's a migraine. About 1 out of every 11 people, 30 million Americans, suffer from these constant headaches. They tend to run in families and occur more often in women than men. But anyone who gets them – man, woman or child – only wants to know two things:

  1. What are the causes of migraine headaches?
  2. How do you make them go away?

Before I address those two questions, let's take a look at the common types of migraines.

The Classic Migraine

The two most common types of migraines are the ones with a migraine aura and ones without a migraine aura.

  • Headache with migraine aura: the aura is usually described as a shimmering light seen around objects or at the edge of your vision. It happens anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes before the headache starts.
  • Headache without migraine aura: this is the most common migraine and may occur on one or both sides of the head. Rather than an aura, you may experience tiredness or a change in mood the day before the headache. Nausea and sensitivity to light are common.(1)

These types of migraines usually progress through five stages:

  1. Prodrome: the warning signs that a headache is starting. These range from odd sensations like changes in taste and smell to a change in mood. You may be aware of muscle tension and fatigue.
  2. Aura: the visual disturbance that occurs just before the headache.
  3. Headache: most people experience pain on just one side of the head, but 30-40% of migraines occur on both sides. 80% of sufferers are nauseated and 70% are sensitive to light. This phase lasts 4-72 hours.
  4. Termination: even without treatment, the pain is usually relieved by sleep.
  5. Postdrome: once the headache is over there can be residual effects like lack of appetite and reduced ability to concentrate. Fatigue can linger for a while.(2)

The Causes of Migraine Headaches

According to Stephen Ross, associate professor of neurology at Penn State's College of Medicine, most migraines are the result of a hereditary tendency for nerve cells to overreact to normal stimuli. "Your brain is normal," he explains, "your nerves are normal. It's their reaction that's abnormal."

In migraine sufferers, the upper surface of the brain, the cortex, is overly sensitive to a number of things like stress, hormones, changes in the environment and even various foods and drinks. When the nerves overreact to those things, blood vessels become dilated and inflamed, leading to pain. "Any of these triggers will cause an electrical response in the brain," says Ross. He also notes that about three quarters of people can identify the specific triggers of their constant headaches, whether it is stress, red wine, chocolate or something else.(3)

Other common triggers include smoke, chemical odors, change in sleep patterns, loud noises, missed meals, caffeine, food additives and abrupt weather changes. The best way for you to identify your triggers is to keep a headache diary. Any time you have a headache, write down what you've eaten, how much sleep you've had and whether there have been changes in the weather or your environment. You may be able to identify a pattern that will help you lessen or avoid those triggers.

 Those will be the causes of migraine headaches for you.

On the Horizon…

Some interesting things going on in research into other causes of migraine headaches are:

  • Studies show that about half of migraine sufferers are deficient in blood levels of magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in the electrical signaling in nerve cells and thus can affect the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. The USDA Agricultural Research Service is conducting trials to get conclusive proof of the effect of magnesium on migraines.(4)
  • Migraine sufferers are often less physically active because many types of exercise can trigger constant headaches. But a new study has shown that a particular exercise, indoor cycling, is very well tolerated. The cycling program improved patient's oxygen uptake without worsening the migraines at any time during the study period. Then, in the last month of treatment, there was a significant decrease in number of headaches, intensity of the migraines and the amount of medication used. This study suggests that certain exercises can permanently reduce migraine attacks.(5)
  • Conventional approaches to treating migraines are based on the view that constant headaches are separate or sporadic events. Dr. Roger Cady of the Headache Care Center in Springfield Missouri poses the idea that migraine may actually be a chronic, progressive disease much like diabetes or hypertension. He bases his theory on clinical studies which show that those who suffer migraines are twice as likely to develop heart disease and stroke. Understanding the full impact of migraines on a person's life, and not just as an isolated headache episode, may change the entire health care model when it comes to treating migraines.(6)
  • On the cutting edge of migraine treatment is a new class of medicine now being reviewed by the FDA. Called calcitonin-gene related peptide (CGRP) blockers, they are capable of blocking the chemical signal that causes the pain of a migraine. When the pain pathway is blocked, the headache doesn't happen. If approved, CGRP would be the first new class of migraine medications in 15 years.(7)

Meanwhile, if you suffer from those constant headaches known as migraines, you probably have a routine in place to deal with them. Watch your triggers, reduce stress the best you can and get regular sleep. Before making any other changes to your diet, exercise or supplement regimen, consult a professional health care provider for advice.

Sources:

  1. Aggarwal, Sandeep, MD, "Migraine Headaches," neurologychannel.com, April 10, 2008
  2. "What Happens During a Migraine?"  WebMD.com
  3. Stevenson, Alexa, "Probing Question: What Causes Migraine?" physorg.com, Mar 19, 2009
  4. Nielsen, Forrest H, USDA, Agricultural Research Service, 10/23/06
  5. Wiley-Blackwell, "Exercise Program Reduces Migraine Suffering," ScienceDaily.com, Mar 29, 2009
  6. "Evolution of Migraine: From Episodic Headache to Chronic Disorder," Mayo Clinic, May 30, 2009
  7. Stevenson, Alexa, "Probing Question: What Causes Migraine?" physorg.com, Mar 19, 2009
Author Description :

Dr. Blankstein has been practicing for over 30 years as a leading Cardiologist. Trained in traditional medicine and Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease, he knows the importance of good medical care. This consideration has allowed him to discover safe and natural ways of healing. His dedication to bringing the latest and best in health solutions to his patients and the public has given him the experience to research and develop proven natural remedies for many illnesses.

© 2009 Chesapeake Nutraceuticals

Are Migraines Making You Suffer Constant Headaches?

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