Home > Migraines > What are Migraines?

What are Migraines?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 19 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Migraine Headache Treatment Trigger

A migraine headache is a severe headache with pain felt on one or both sides of the head. The pain is typically concentrated around the front part of the head near the temples, or behind an eye or ear. The headache may last for several hours or even several days.

Who Gets Migraines?

There are approximately 6 million adults in the UK who suffer from migraines. Roughly 1 in 4 women, or 1 in 12 men will get a migraine at some point in their life. Frequency ranges a great deal, with some people experiencing migraines rarely and others having several each week.

Signs You May Be Experiencing A Migraine

There are several phases involved in a migraine headache and not every sufferer will experience each phase. Awareness of migraine symptoms may be helpful when you first visit your doctor to communicate your discomfort. In the pre-headache phase, the sufferer may experience the following symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Heightened sensory awareness
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Intense thirst
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity

For those who do have a distinctive pre-headache phase, it can be helpful to identify the symptoms occurring to allow for immediate treatment. This may prevent the migraine from escalating into a painful headache phase. In the headache phase, a person may experience:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Pain on one side
  • Pins and needles
  • Loss of concentration
  • Mild pain that escalates to severe
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tenderness in neck
  • Mood disruption

Classic or Common?

Migraines are also categorized into two types: classic and common.

In a classic migraine headaches, a person has visual symptoms known as an 'aura.' These tend to occur 10 minutes to half an hour before the migraine attack. The sufferer may see flashing lights or zigzag lines and may also experience blind spots or vision loss for some time. An aura can also involve seeing unusual sights or hearing odd sounds. A person's overall sensory perception may become very distorted.

In a common migraine, no aura is involved but the other symptoms of migraines, such as head pain and nausea, generally occur.

What Causes Migraines?

The exact cause of migraine headaches is not clearly understood, despite ongoing research. A decrease followed by an increase in blood flow to part of the brain is suggested to contribute to a migraine. The stretching of a blood vessel wall thus results in the pain experienced. It is also thought that migraines may be caused by the release of specific chemicals, which then cause inflammation and pain. Levels of serotonin seem to decrease at the onset of a migraine attack but are normal during migraine free periods.

Recent studies have linked genes to migraine. It is suggested that people who suffer from migraines may inherit abnormal genes that control the functions of certain brain cells. In those who are predisposed to migraine, the attack may then be set off when some part of the brain becomes 'over-excited' by a specific stimulus or 'trigger.' Triggers vary from person to person, but common dietary and environmental ones have been identified.

One of the first steps to managing your migraine and receiving proper treatment is understanding just what a migraine is; hopefully a greater knowledge will mean better treatment of the disease. By becoming informed and talking to your doctor, you can learn more about managing migraines.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Ugg
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Coop - I'm not surprised. It may take a few days. Go to the docs if you feel it's unbearable.
    15 January 2018
  • Coop
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    Played footy this morning and took football into the face and can not shift this heaface i taken asprin but not calimef it down…
    14 January 2018
  • Yoli
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    Every time my husband drinks water at night he wakes up with the headache is that normal?
    13 January 2018
  • mumof3
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Tbear & @Stevo - both of you should get yourselves seen to if you are in any way concerned. More so Tbear if you feel sick too.…
    5 January 2018
  • Stevo
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I banged my head three weeks ago resulting in having 8 stitches and my head still hurts is this normal
    2 January 2018
  • Tbear
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    About a month ago, while I was at work I fell from a 10 foot ladder. I was taken to the hospital and had a the tests and xrays…
    1 January 2018
  • Lisa
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I got punched in the face a few days ago, and now ive been getting headaches. What does this mean?
    27 December 2017
  • Moe
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    Hair does not grow properly short in some spots long in other pain in the middle of scalp scratching can't take it no more
    24 December 2017
  • Joeboy
    Re: Flicker Illness
    This is very interesting I do know of someone whom has all the symptoms mentioned it will be some comfort for her to know she is not alone and her…
    24 December 2017
  • Hurting
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    Hit my face into car door almost took my eye out now I have pain all around my eyes
    19 December 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.