Majority of us experience headaches either during an attack of cold or flu, or a tension headache after a busy stressful day. But do you experience headaches more frequently than others, more disabling than a routine headache, throbbing in nature on one side of your head, feel sick in your stomach or dizzy during the episodes, or do you feel irritated and sensitive to light, noise, or odours?

If yes, then you probably suffer from migraine. Don’t worry, you are not alone. About 10% of adults are seen to be affected with the condition. As it keeps recurring, the better you understand your headaches the better you will be prepared to fight them.

About Migraines

Migraine is a medical condition in which you suffer from recurrent bouts of headaches accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. It happens due to problems in the nerves and blood vessels in your head.

Some experts believe that it is caused by dilatation and constriction of blood vessels in your head, altered levels of chemicals called serotonin in your brain, while others feel that it has a genetic predisposition.

In women, hormonal disturbances in relation to the menstrual cycle are seen to be the cause for migraine as there are reports of symptoms improving with menopause.

You are more likely to be diagnosed with migraine as a cause for your recurrent headaches if you are a woman, are between 15 to 35 years of age due to hormonal changes, have a family history of migraine, or take birth control pills as these also causes fluctuations in hormones.


A list of migraine symptoms are listed below. They are:

  • You may experience intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side or both sides of your head that worsens with physical activity.

  • The headaches are often associated with stiff or tender neck, lightheadedness and tender scalp.

  • You may have blurred vision and see blind spots in front of your eyes.

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Sound or odors

  • Tiredness

  • Confusion

The exact mechanism of why migraine causes these symptoms is unknown.

You may experience something called as an aura/ warning sign around 10 to 30 minutes before an episode of migraine.

Some of the common auras include:

  • Blurred vision

  • Seeing spots

  • Colored balls

  • Jagged lines

  • Bright and flashing lights

  • Smelling a bad odor

  • Flashing lights and colors

  • Temporary loss of vision

  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Irritation
  • Restlessness
  • The most severe type is status migrainosus which typically is long lasting and does not go away by itself.

    You may be also among the few who experience a premonition hours to days before the migraine. These auras are a little different and may cause cravings for different foods, thirst, irritability, or feelings of intense energy.

    Other rare symptoms in migraine are:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sense of coordination
  • Stumbling
  • Trouble talking either just before or while you have a headache
  • A migraine headache may typically last from 4 to 72 hours. You may experience it several times a week or only once a year.

    Migraine without aura is the most prevalent type. In this type headache starts slowly, lasts longer and interferes more with daily activities. The second type is migraine with aura. It is more severe in symptoms and may be accompanied by:


    First and foremost your doctor will take a detailed history on your headaches with respect to time of occurrence, duration, frequency, location, and accompanying symptoms.

    Your doctor may also order for blood tests, imaging tests like CAT scan or MRI, and lumbar puncture to rule out other medical problems that could be the cause for your headaches.

    It is therefore advisable for you to maintain a dairy so that it helps you and your doctor figure out what triggers the headache in you and decide on the right treatment option.


    Migraine is the most common cause of disabling headache seen in individuals between 15 and 35 years of age. Although migraine has no cure the positive aspect of the condition is that it doesn’t possess threat to your overall health. It can however be chronic, recurrent, frustrating, and interfere with your daily life.

    Medicines may be prescribed by your doctor to provide migraine relief from the acute pain or prevent future episodes. Migraine headaches can be prevented by avoiding the triggers and following simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and including regular physical activity in your daily life.

    Factors or activities that set off an episode of migraine in you are called as triggers. They include lack of food/ sleep, excess sleep, smoking, weather changes, travel, exposure to light, hormonal irregularities (in women), anxiety, stress, and at times even relaxation after stress.

    Certain types of food items may trigger migraine. It’s not known why these food items increase the likelihood of developing migraine, but consumption of these food items may trigger migraine headaches in some people.

    • caffeine

    • alcohol

    • cheese

    • pizza

    • chocolate

    • ice cream

    • fatty or fried food

    • lunch meats

    • hot dogs

    • yogurt

    • aspartame

    • anything with MSG, a seasoning often used in Asian foods among others

    There is no cure or proper treatment for migraine. Your doctor can only prescribe medicines to either prevent the attacks or relieve pain/ symptoms during the attacks.

    If you suffer from migraine due to the hormonal disturbances linked to your menstrual cycle you may need hormonal therapy in management of the condition.

    Other medicines called as triptans are prescribed for relief of pain during acute episodes. These medicines tend to constrict the blood vessels in the brain, thereby reducing symptoms such as pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and noise.

    Narcotics or barbiturates are classes of drugs that can help in severe cases but since they are habit forming you need to use them cautiously.

    Supplementation with aminoacids/ proteins, magnesium, and vitamin B2 can help prevent migraine in some patients. These supplements tend to correct the tiny deficiency in the brain cells and prevent further migraine headaches.

    Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and certain herbs like feverfew and butterbur, are known to provide relief from migraine. However, do consult your doctor before using herbal supplements as they are known to trigger side effects and interfere with more traditional methods of management.

    You may also benefit from stress management strategies such as exercise, relaxation, biofeedback, and other therapies that limit discomfort, reduce the occurrence and severity of migraine attacks, and need for pain medicines.

    • Try to figure out what triggers migraine in you so that you can avoid the same as much as possible

    • Get enough sleep at night

    • Avoid food triggers

    • Have regular meals

    • Cut down on caffeine

    • Avoid cigarettes

    • Drink plenty of fluids and water

    • Regular exercise

    • Keeping your weight in check

    • Reducing stress

    All these will help you in managing your headaches.

    When you are experiencing an episode of headache due to migraine try to lie down in a quiet dark room.

    Other measures that may help you in relieving pain are massaging your scalp with a lot of pressure, putting cold compresses over your forehead, and by applying pressure on your temples.

    Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated with plenty of fluids especially if you have vomited.

    If your headache is severely intense and different in pattern than the regular episodes, if you experience symptoms like;

    • Try to figure out what triggers migraine in you so that you can avoid the same as much as possible

    • Speech problems

    • Change in vision

    • Loss of balance

    • Difficulty in moving a limb

    • Worsening of pain on lying down

    You need to contact your doctor immediately to detect any serious underlying problem such as stroke or bleeding in the brain.