The exact migraine causes are not yet fully understood. Throughout the years, it has been generally accepted that migraine and its symptoms were due to problems with the blood vessels in the head. Based on the recent research, it was discovered that even though blood vessel constriction can cause pain, the cause of migraine is likely linked to a disorder of the central nervous system.
The chain of both chemical and physical processes within and surrounding the brain that results to migraine is still uncertain. It is known that something triggers a flow of biochemical reactions that triggers an inflammatory response and excitement of the trigeminal nerve. This excitement spreads to the other nerves in the meninges and results to pain and other symptoms of migraine.
Factors that can cause migraine headaches
- Diminished levels of serotonin
- Dietary insufficiency in magnesium which is essential for nerve function
- Neuropeptides that trigger inflammation and activates the pain receptors
- Release of nitric oxide
- Issues in the way the cells transport calcium ions
- Hormonal changes
- Inflammation of the maxillary nerve
There are several factors that will trigger the occurrence of migraine headaches. The trigger in each individual tends to differ but most are included in these categories:
- Certain foods and chemicals such as alcohol, chocolate, nuts, MSG, processed meats, aged cheeses, aspartame and elevated levels of caffeine.
- Changes in the emotional stress levels since increased stress at home or work can trigger a headache
- Changing condition of the weather which includes the humidity, barometric pressure and the temperature
- Dehydration or hunger particularly when caused by skipping meals
- Changes in the sleeping patterns whether getting less or more sleep than usual
- Exposure to bright lights such as direct sunlight without using sunglasses or light generated by watching a movie screen
- Loud sounds from a concert or from construction equipment
- Strong odors such as from an air freshener, perfume or cologne
- Hormonal changes in women that can be related to the menstrual period, intake of birth control pills, pregnancy or hormonal replacement therapy for menopause
- Vigorous physical activity including the lifting of heavy objects, exercise and sexual activity
Treatment for migraines
Once a migraine is in progress, ending it or minimizing the pain and other accompanying symptoms is important.
Medications can be used and these are divided in three classes of drugs that can be used to treat migraine as they start to manifest:
- Ergotamines will cause the blood vessels to constrict and relieve the symptoms rapidly.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can minimize the pain and inflammation. They are available in both prescription and over-the-counter doses.
- Triptans can cause various effects on the brain and the blood vessels and can stop a severe migraine in most cases.
A minimal amount of caffeine is oftentimes included in some of the medications stated since it makes them work even more effectively. Additionally, anti-nausea medications can be prescribed to minimize the nausea and vomiting linked with migraine.
Hot or cold compress can be applied to the head or neck as first aid steps to minimize the severity of the pain during a migraine. Since some individuals have migraines that are triggered by sensitivity to sound and light, it is best to rest or sit in a dark, quiet room in order to make the headache bearable.