What is a Migraine Attack?

What is the difference between a migraine and a headache? That is the first thing that people ask to migraineurs, or those who suffer from migraines. Well, migraine is not just a headache. The headache is just a symptom.

Symptoms
Headaches can be treated with over-the-counter medicines and rest. The headache in a migraine attack however is accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, air, water, smell, sound and even movement and touch. Regular pain relievers don’t work.

Those are not just the symptoms however. Various reports from patients list a variety of symptoms and triggers. Others feel sensitive to almost everything that has to do with the senses, feel nausea and vomiting, and even see lights in the corners of the eyes.

The intensity of the pain also differs as well as the duration of the symptoms. That is why during an attack, the person has no choice but to lie still for hours. It can be a crippling condition and can ruin your routine and relationships when not properly understood and managed.

Types of Migraine
According to various institutions such as the World Health Organization, all types of migraines can be classified under two major categories, migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

1. Migraine With Aura
This type is usually accompanied by blurry vision or seeing lines or light (phosphenes) or losing vision (or scotoma) during an attack. The person will also experience tingling, weakness and numbness. Sometimes the changes in the vision are warning signs of an oncoming attack. Other cases report the sensitivity to touch, losing the ability to comprehend language, confusion, and distortion of perspective. Studies also show migraineurs with this type are at a high risk of having a stroke.

2. Migraine Without Aura
This is the most common type of migraine that usually lasts for 4 hours to three days. The migraineur feels a throbbing pain in the side or most of the head. It can be debilitating. The person might be sensitive to sound or light, feel dizzy and experience diarrhea and vomiting.

Some women also experience migraine attacks related to the menstrual cycle. This happens because the estrogen levels fall low just before the period.

Management
Since there is no known cause for migraines, there is also no known cure. But the symptoms can be managed and the attacks prevented. Some people may have inherited the condition from relatives or developed it from bad lifestyle habits such as stress, alcohol and lack of sleep. There are also people who develop migraine because of hormonal changes.

The best way to determine what triggers a migraine is to keep a diary. List down all the food, beverages and activities within a day. The doctor will then examine the diary to determine what type of migraine you have, the triggers, and a plan how to manage the symptoms during an attack.

If you need more information, the website www.migraine.sg provides a list of clinics and alternative pain relief for migraines. If you suspect that you have a migraine, visit the neurology division in the hospital nearest you.

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