Over 1 billion people suffer from migraine headaches worldwide. It is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world and the 6th most disabling. Despite this, there is still a lot we don’t know about why migraines happen and how they happen. They remain largely misunderstood and thus are undertreated. Migraines are more than headaches, and you don’t have to live with them. Here are some essential facts you need to know.
Migraines are a complex condition where the symptoms vary by person and episode. The severe, throbbing pain that usually occurs on one side of the head is the symptom most often experienced. Sensory and physical disturbances that affect the vision, hearing, and sense of smell often accompany many sufferers’ pain. An attack can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours and falls into two main categories, though there are several classification types:
- Migraine with aura- May experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Blind spots in the field of eyesight
- Sparkles or stars
- Flashing lights before the eyes
- Tunnel vision
- Zigzag lines
- Numbness or tingling
- Pins and needles in the arms and legs
- Migraine without aura- 70-90% of people have this type.
- Throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Sensitivity to light or sound
We are still learning about what causes migraines, but 90% of patients have a family history. Stress, lack of food, use of alcohol, hormonal changes in women, lack of sleep, and environmental influences are known triggers for those predisposed to migraines.
Treatment Triple Threat
Migraine management involves three main approaches.
- Medication is used to stop an attack once it starts (acute),
- Drugs that lessen the frequency of attacks and pain intensity (preventative).
- Complementary therapies can help decrease the frequency of attacks through lifestyle changes, exercise, and other various therapies. They can be used to enhance medication treatments or alone.
Misunderstood, Undiagnosed, and Undertreated
39 million American men, women, and children suffer from migraines. Sadly, more than half are never diagnosed because most do not seek medical care for their condition. Advances in technology have allowed us better to understand the brain and nervous system through research studies. The knowledge learned goes back into designing better ways to diagnose, manage, and eventually cure migraines.
Research studies are a great way to learn more about your condition and gain potential access to new treatments before they are made public. Seattle Women’s is actively enrolling participants into several migraine studies looking into new options from intranasal treatments to oral ones. Visit our website to learn more or call us at (206) 522-3330.