Despite being the third most prevalent disease in the world, migraine is still not understood well by the scientific community. The cause and mechanism of migraines is conjecture and so the treatment is still not completely standardized.
The nature of these headaches is well-known now and calling it “just another form of headache” is not appropriate. In fact, migraine pain is so debilitating that 90% of patients are unable to function normally during an episode.
The myths around migraine pains are still widespread, making it necessary to bust a few below:
1. Migraine is just a bad headache
A headache is just one of the many symptoms of migraine and is not an apt-enough word to describe it. It is more like a breakdown of neurological functions. Nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, are just a few other symptoms that may appear during an attack.
Fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as the hormone levels, may lead to the contraction of blood vessels that lead to one-sided headaches attributable to migraines.
2. Migraines don’t last long
Migraine episodes are usually pretty drawn out, lasting up to 6 days. The stages involved are equally distinct but may not be present in every attack.
The whole process, however, easily lasts for more than a few hours. It starts with the prodrome stage, which may begin a day or two before the actual pains. It is thought that the changes in the levels of hormones and brain chemicals occur during the prodrome stage, giving rise to mood swings, increased thirst, and cravings.
In the next stage, some people suffer from a phenomenon known as “auras”, which can be described as zigzags or colorful distortion around objects. It may also appear in the form of pins and needles pain in the limbs and more.
It is after these stages that the headache begins along with nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity. In some cases, the pain itself may not appear, but the rest of the symptoms do kick in.
3. Migraines dissipate easily
Migraines are typically the pains that you cannot fight through. The effects can be felt days after an episode, leaving the person exhausted and moody. They change the way the patient looks at daily life. And while there are medicines for migraines, most of them are abortive and not curative, meaning that they might mute the pain but not stop an oncoming episode.
Many times, doctors recommend avoiding known migraine triggers to decrease the frequency of episodes as opposed to taking medication only.
4. Over The Counter (OTC) Drugs are the only treatment
The most common line of treatment of migraines is to take OTC painkillers, followed by caffeine and a few hours of solitude in the dark, quiet, cold room. However, medicines may not always work with such headaches since, statistically, the medication taken to mute the pain may increase the frequency of episodes and worsen the pain over time.
Thus, it is very important to get a proper diagnosis and discuss the viable treatment options with your doctor. Even if you suffer from medication-overuse headaches, with time and patience, you will be able to employ a practical long-term approach to migraine management.
Migraines are a part of everyday reality for millions of people worldwide. Other than the fact that migraine commonly affects those between the ages of 15 and 55, more than 75% of all migraine patients are women, highlighting that the disease has age- and gender-based incidence rates.
Most importantly, 90% of all patients have migraines in family history, showing that genetics do play a key role in the development of this disease.