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What is a Migraine? Print E-mail
Written by Amanda Wattson, MD   
Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A migraine is a moderate to severe headache affecting one or both sides of the head.

What is going on in the body?

Migraines are believed to be caused by changes in the blood flow in the vessels of the head. Changes in blood flow to different areas of the brain can produce a variety of symptoms.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?
The tendency for migraine headaches is probably inherited. Other factors that put a person at risk for migraines include:
- bright lights
- certain foods and drinks, such as caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol
- head injury or neck injury
- hormonal changes in women, especially during menstruation
- stress
- poor sleep habits
- weather changesWhat are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment for acute migraine attacks includes:
- butalbital/APAP/caffeine
- dihydroergotamine
- isometheptene/dichloralphenazone/APAP
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- other analgesics, such as hydrocodone/APAP
- triptans, such as sumatriptan or zolmitriptan

Nonmedicine treatments include:
- acupuncture
- aromatherapy
- avoiding migraine triggers
- biofeedback
- chiropractic
- electromagnetic therapy
- exercising regularly
- herbal remedies
- hypnosis
- massage therapy
- physical therapy
- stress management

Other than avoiding one's triggers, the non-medicine treatments listed above may or may not be effective. A person should always talk with the doctor first before trying any of these treatments for migraine headache.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects of medicines used to treat migraines include stomach upset, drowsiness, and allergic reactions.

Nonmedicine treatments generally have few or no side effects.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
After an effective treatment for migraine is in place, the person will usually feel like resuming normal activities. Rarely, complicated migraines can cause a stroke.

How is the condition monitored?
A person with migraines may be asked to keep a headache diary. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.


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