Migraine is a complex condition that has been recognized for more than 4000 years. Hippocrates, in 400 BC, described the visual aura of migraine preceding headache as “a shining light, usually in the right eye, followed by violent pain in the temple that eventually reaches the head and neck area.”
It is a collection of different types of symptoms, and the diagnosis is made based upon some characteristic features. According to the International Headache Society, this type of headache has some associated features. Let’s look at some of these features by answering the following questions (also look at the table):
Is your headache on one side of your head (unilateral)?
Is your headache throbbing in nature?
Is your headache aggravated by any type of movement? Do you prefer to lie still rather than walk around to get a breath of fresh air?
Is your headache moderate to severe in intensity?
If you answered yes to at least 2 of the questions above, then you likely have migraine headache. There are 2 more questions that can help to solidify the diagnosis:
- Do you have nausea and/or vomiting with your headache?
- Are you sensitive to light or sound, such that you want to lie down in a dark, quiet place?
What we have described above is known as migraine without aura. This is the most common type of migraine. The 2nd most important type of migraine is migraine with aura.
Aura (derived from the Greek word aura, which means breath or gentle breeze) refers to neurologic symptoms that develop slowly prior to the headache. Because aura is such a classic migraine phenomenon, its presence is nearly always diagnostic of this condition. However, only about one in eight people affected with migraine ever experiences an aura. Auras can be visual, auditory, olfactory (sense of smell), and sensory, and they can affect the patient’s speech.
Besides these two types of migraine, there are other, less common types:
- Hemiplegic migraine
- Retinal migraine (also known as Ophthalmic migraine)
- Basilar artery migraine
- Abdominal migraine
- Any substance can be a potential trigger in susceptible individuals.
- MSG masquerades as many different things, so read the ingredients carefully.
- Most of the triggers can be cured using alternative strategies such as acupuncture, NAET, and homeopathy.
- Controlling or avoiding your triggers will help to lessen the burden of suffering from migraines.
People affected by migraine have a sensitive brain, and this sensitivity can be triggered by substances in the external and internal environment, which create an enhanced response of the brain to these stimuli. However, in some cases, the response is not to a specific stimulus, but is a general over-excitation that exceeds the tolerance of an individual’s body chemistry. In other words, the migraineur has increased sensitivity to both the quality and the quantity of sensory stimulation.
Simply put, a trigger is a factor that increases the probability of a migraine attack. It activates the mechanism in the brain that causes migraine. Unfortunately, you may not always realize what is setting off your headache. Triggers vary from person to person and from headache to headache. It is also possible that a specific trigger may lose its effectiveness as you grow older. Triggers do not cause headaches. They merely cause the sensitive brain to react a certain way, which leads to the headache. The exact mechanism by which the triggers cause headaches is not known.
There are certain caveats when it comes to triggers. A substance that triggers the brain of one patient may not cause any reaction in another patient. In other words, not everyone has the same triggers. Therefore, a list of potential triggers is worthwhile only as a starting point to see if a particular item may be a trigger for you. You have to make a list of triggers that cause your headaches.
Some of the more well-known triggers are: