Migraines: not just a regular headache
Migraines are more than just bad headaches — they can sometimes be a sign of problems with your nervous system.
People who get migraines usually have strong, throbbing pain on one side of their head. Most people feel the pain in their temples or behind their eye or ear. They can cause some people to see spots or ashing lights. Migraines can also cause upset stomach, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraines can happen any time of day, though they often start in the morning. The pain can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. You can get them once or twice a week or once or twice a year.
What causes migraines?
For many years, scientists thought that migraines were caused by the blood vessels in your head expanding and contracting. Now they believe that they might have a genetic cause.
Although no one knows for sure why migraines happen, they do have a pattern:
They most often happen to people between the ages of 15 and 55.
Most people who get them have a family history of migraines.
Migraines are more common in women.
They often become less severe as you get older.
Can you stop migraines?
Although migraines may seem to happen without warning, you can control them by using “headache hygiene.” This means taking care of yourself so that you lower your risk of an attack. Headache hygiene takes two simple steps: changing your lifestyle and avoiding your triggers.
Get enough sleep. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes three times a week.
Don’t skip meals. Start your day with a healthy breakfast.
Lower your stress. Some people nd it helpful to take stress breaks every day.
Avoid common triggers
A change in your sleep pattern: getting too much or too little sleep.} Certain foods: aged cheese, red wine, processed meat.
Extreme heat or cold.
Going out in the sunlight without sunglasses.
Breathing in smog, perfume or chemicals.
Looking at ashing lights or electronic screens.
How to treat migraines
Migraines have no cure, but they can be managed with your doctor’s help. Your doctor may prescribe drugs that can stop a migraine that has already started, reduce the pain or help prevent an attack. If you feel a headache coming on, treating it right away may help make it less severe. Some things to try: drinking plenty of water; resting in a dark room; and placing a cool washcloth on your forehead.
To help you and your doctor pinpoint your triggers, start a headache diary. Some things you should track include:
Date and time your headache started.} How long the migraine lasted.
Intensity on a scale of 1 to 10.
Triggers (food, activity, etc.).
What you were doing before the migraine.
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