Many people confuse a migraine with a traditional headache. Unfortunately, this can be highly misleading. Migraine is a neurological disease, during which a headache is only one of many symptoms, as it is often accompanied by other ailments. As migraine is nowadays a quite frequent phenomenon, particularly in women, and the first symptoms may appear already at a young age, it is worth explaining this medical condition a little bit closer.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a unilateral, pulsating headache, which is usually accompanied by hypersensitivity to various stimuli such as sounds, light, or smells, and, as a consequence, e.g. visual disturbances, as well as nausea or vomiting often occur.
Despite the fact that migraine is a common disease, its exact causes have not been clearly determined yet. It is generally believed that the genesis of migraine is multifactorial - genes, as well as various environmental factors, can contribute to frequent headaches. The fact that genetics can account for migraines is particularly evidenced by the fact that up to two-thirds of the migraine disease runs in families. Migraine should be professionally diagnosed by a physician.
Symptoms of Migraine
The most common symptoms, which indicate the occurrence of migraine, are connected with the ability to see because according to conducted research, visual hallucinations (dark circles in front of eyes, flashes of light in the field of vision, visual acuity disturbances, and sometimes even loss of vision) occur in about 30% of patients suffering from migraine, however, it should be emphasized, that the duration of one single migraine attack is usually between 20 and 25 minutes and does not mean any serious or minor brain damage.
Treatment and diagnosis of migraine
The prerequisite for appropriate and, first of all, effective treatment is the correct diagnosis because it is the basis for further medical actions. The correct diagnosis of migraine and its type is based on the presence of at least two symptoms (listed above).
Interestingly, despite the common presumption, unilateral, i.e. one-sidedness of pain is not the most frequent element. The key to the correct diagnosis of migraine is medical history, as only a specialized physician shall have the knowledge to make a precise analysis of the problem, and the diagnosis may be usually made on the basis of typical symptoms of migraine reported by a patient.
It should be mentioned however that medical history is not the only way to diagnose migraine. Sometimes certain examinations are performed in persons who suffer from migraine attacks, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or head imaging examinations (e.g. computed tomography).
Currently, there are two ways of treating migraine phenomena, i.e. immediate treatment and preventive treatment. The short-term treatment consists of taking medication, the aim of which is to stop or minimize as much as possible the migraine attacks, which are being experienced by a person at a given moment. This treatment method is mainly based on the prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and triptans.
On the other hand, the second method of treatment, i.e. prophylactic treatment, consists of taking a number of actions aimed at preventing migraines from occurring. This method of treatment is therefore based on consumption of other than ad hoc drugs, among which there are propranolol, valproic acid, and tricyclic antidepressants.
Migraine is considered to be a chronic disease, therefore (unfortunately) there are no ways, which would guarantee a complete cure of migraine, or these ways are unknown or impossible - due to the current level of technology and state of medical knowledge - to establish. There is also no possibility to precisely determine the frequency with which migraines will occur in a given person. There is also no possibility to define a certain pattern or rule, as there are cases when a person diagnosed with migraine experiences migraine pain several or even more than a dozen times a month, while on the other hand, we may encounter situations when a patient, during his entire life, experiences migraine headaches only once or just a few times.