Migraine headaches affect approximately 10% of the North American population. This is about 28 million Americans. They are three times more common in women than in men, and they are often seen in children and teens. These often debilitating headaches are common and almost half of sufferers treat their own symptoms without consulting a doctor.
Although we don’t know the exact cause of migraines, it has been believed that they are caused by dilation of blood vessels in the head for many years. While this is one possible cause, many researchers believe there may be another reason. Many researchers believe that migraines could be caused by a genetic disorder that affects how certain chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin and our nerve cells.
Types of Migraine
There are two types of migraines. The first type is known as a classic migraine. This is when the headache is preceded by unusual “sensations”. These sensations are often felt minutes before the headache hits. They can include zigzag flashing lights that flash across your field, blind spots that grow in size, tingling in the hands and feet, and tingling in one’s arm or leg.
After the headache passes, a stronger sensitivity to light, sound and nausea, sometimes even vomiting, becomes more common. The most common form of migraine is the second. It occurs without any of these sensations. We don’t know the exact cause of migraines, so we are not sure what could trigger them.
However, there are certain things that can make migraines more likely. Both a lack of sleep or too much sleep seem to be triggers. Eating certain foods, such as cheese, or skipping meals all together, can also be triggers.
Our hormones play a role in the severity and onset of migraine attacks. This is evident by the fact that migraines are more common in women than in men. Research also shows a link between migraine headaches and the contraceptive pill which contains estrogens. However, there are many other possible triggers that can cause migraines.
Simple activities like climbing stairs or engaging in any form of physical activity can sometimes cause an attack. The list goes on, including exposure to loud noises or flickering lights, extreme heat or cold, and so forth.
Stress, like many other headache causes, is also important. There are many medications available today. While some traditional treatments have not been very effective, there are now more options. When it comes to migraine headaches, the key is not to suffer silently but to seek professional advice from your doctor.