How to Deal with Migraines

How to Deal with Migraines

by Susan Neuhalfen

If one has never experienced migraines, it is hard to understand the pain attached to them.
Migraines are debilitating headaches that make performing daily tasks difficult for even the most determined of people. They affect roughly 12% of the population, the majority being women.

Signs of Migraines
So how do you know if you’re having a migraine or just a headache? Here are some telltale signs of migraines:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Pain on one side of the head
  • Pain located behind one ear or eye
  • Seeing flashing lights, spots or having double vision
  • Vertigo, imbalance, fainting
  • Migraines usually give warning signs

Watching for Signs
While interviewing several area residents who have suffered from migraines, they all paid particular attention to the patterns and signs that lead to the migraine. In some cases a jagged light would appear on one side their vision. Some reported having migraines after coming “down” from a stressful situation. For others, it would happen hours after eating certain foods. The causes of the migraines are known as triggers.

Common Triggers

  • Allergies (including food allergies)
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Strong odors
  • Foods, drinks especially containing caffeine and alcohol
  • Changes in weather
  • Changes in sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Medication
  • Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes, whether menopause or menstruation, are a very common triggers among women, which is why migraines are slightly more common in boys than girls until girls begin menstruation. However, those with kids mentioned dehydration and sleep deprivation as the most common triggers.

“They don’t stay well hydrated, especially in the Texas heat,” said one reader. “When my kids are playing sports I have to really monitor their schedules.”

Another reader had a child athlete who was suffering from five migraines a month. Not wanting to put him on medicine, she took control of his diet.

“I made sure that everything I fixed was fresh and took all food with MSG out of the house,” she said. “Processed foods really affected him.”

She and her husband kept an eye on the patterns. They made sure that he had a banana or yogurt just after his soccer practices and always had water or a drink with electrolytes on hand. Now it’s rare that he gets a migraine.

Prevention and Treatment
One of the recurring themes that every migraine sufferer mentioned was recognizing the patterns that lead to the migraine. Many kept food journals to see if there was a correlation between ingredients that caused the migraine. Others recognized that as soon as they felt stress they began taking medication to stave off any problems. One mentioned that she used Excedrin Migraine while some had prescription medications. Still others, as soon as they saw the flashing lights, simply laid down in a dark room with no sounds and covered their eyes with a towel or sleep mask.

If natural remedies don’t help, or if new symptoms develop, the most important thing to do is to see a doctor who specializes in headache management.

A relatively new development in the treatment of chronic migraine headaches is to use Botox. Yes, the same Botox used to treat wrinkles, but don’t think that a trip to the plastic surgeon is in order. Only a trained neurologist will have the clinical expertise to perform these Botox injections. Also, this method is only used for chronic migraine sufferers. A chronic migraine sufferer is one who has migraine headaches for 4+ hours at a time at least 15 days out of the month. For those chronic migraine sufferers who have not responded well to other medications, Botox injections have proven in many cases to be a positive alternative.

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