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A migraine headache or just "migraine" is a common headache that occurs mostly in women. It is a headache that is associated with nausea, vomiting or light sensitivity and with a headache that is usually associated with pain on one side of the head.

Some people have an aura or a warning sign that they are going to have a migraine headache. The aura can be spots before the eyes or other visual disturbance that means a headache is coming on. This is what happens in a classic migraine. Most people have common migraines, which do not have an aura.

Migraines are common in at least 11 out of 100 individuals. It usually starts within the ages of ten and forty six years of age. They can occur later in life, however. Migraines occur more often in women than in men and are usually hereditary. Women have a reduction in migraines during pregnancy, especially in the final two trimesters.

Migraines are caused by abnormal activity within the brain. The headaches are triggered by certain foods, stress, environmental exposures and other things. The way these act on migraine headaches, however, is unclear. Nerve pathways and neurotransmitters seem to have something to do with how you get a migraine headache. These changes in neurotransmitters affect the blood flow in the brain and you get migraine headaches.

Triggers for migraine attacks include allergic reactions, alcohol, bright lights, odours, sleep disturbances, exercise, hormonal factors, hunger, loud noises, physical stress, emotional stress, and smoking or smoke exposure.

There are numerous food triggers for getting migraines. The main food triggers include baked goods, processed or fermented foods, dairy products, chocolate, MSG, foods with tyramine in it (cheese, red wine, smoked fish), certain beans, fruits such as avocado, citrus or banana, onions, nuts, meats with nitrates in them, and peanut butter. There are other food triggers as well.

Symptoms of a migraine headache include having an aura, which is having a temporary blind spot, seeing stars, seeing zigzag lines, having eye pain, blurry vision or tunnel vision. Auras usually develop 10-15 minutes before the onset of the headache. You may get an aura but not get the headache.

Migraines themselves may be dull or sharp and severe. The pain may be noticed behind the eye or in the back of the head or neck. They often begin on the same side of the head each time. The headaches can be throbbing, pulsating or pounding. They can also be steady in nature. The can start mildly and can worsen over time. It tends to last between 6 to 48 hours at a time. Chills, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite can occur along with the headache. Stroke-like symptoms including numbness, tingling and weakness can occur as a result of the migraine headache. Speech difficulties can also occur. There tends to be a great sensitivity to light and sound as a result of migraine headache. After the headache is over, you can feel mentally dull, have neck pain or feel like you need to sleep it off.

Tests for migraine headache include a complete history and physical examination. Specific questions about the presence of an aura and exactly what the headache is like are often asked. The doctor can do a CT scan of the head or an MRI examination in order to rule out another condition, such as a brain tumour. An EEG can be performed to see whether or not there is seizure activity. A lumbar puncture might be done to see whether or not the headache is from meningitis or encephalitis.

Treatment for migraine headaches can be preventative or can treat the headache. You can change your triggers in order to prevent the headaches. You can get more sleep and eat a healthier diet. There are medications to block migraine headaches. You can use narcotic pain medication to control the headache. Antidepressants like amitriptyline will reduce the frequency of headaches as can propranolol, verapamil and gabapentin or valproate. SSRI medication can reduce the frequency of headaches, as can SNRI medications.

Stopping a headache can involve over the counter medications like Tylenol and ibuprofen. Triptan medications like Imitrex can block a migraine headache, especially when taken early on. Ergot alkaloids like Cafergot can block a migraine headache.

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Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist medical negligence compensation service. Our Migraine Headache solicitors deal with claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Migraine Headache solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here