Migraines are intense headaches that can cause painful throbbing or pulsing on one or both sides of the head. These headaches often make you more sensitive to light and sound, and can cause nausea and vomiting. They can cause puffy eyelids, hives, and other allergy-like symptoms.
Approximately 15 to 20 percent of people experience “auras,” or a cluster of neurological symptoms, before a migraine occurs. Auras may include:
- seeing visions of flashing lights or crossing lines
- blind spots
- a brief loss of vision in one or both eyes
- strange smells or tastes
- feelings of numbness or “pins and needles”
Auras may last up to an hour and go away once a migraine begins.
Women are three times more likely to get migraines than men. Most people with migraines experience their first during their childhood or teenage years.
Doctors aren’t completely sure why migraines occur. Most experts now think that genetics may play a role in why some people get migraines and others do not.
Migraines can occur randomly, but in many cases are triggered by changes in a person’s environment, such as:
- changes in hormone levels, especially in women
- salty or processed foods
- food additives, such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- skipping meals or fasting
- alcoholic or highly caffeinated beverages
- stressful situations
- strong lights, sounds, and smells
- changes in sleep patterns
- intense physical activity
- changes in weather or air pressure
- certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators
Migraines cannot be cured, but certain medications and lifestyle changes can help decrease the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. People with migraines have several choices as to where to find treatment. Read on to learn more about your options:
Find a Doctor
When it comes to finding the appropriate treatment for your migraines, you should start by seeing your primary care physician. The type or types of specialists your doctor will recommend depends on your condition.
A neurologist is most likely the first type of specialist your doctor will recommend you to see. Neurologists are specially trained in treating headaches, including migraines. However, your doctor may also recommend you see:
- an ophthalmologist if you experience temporary blindness during your migraine auras
- a psychologist or psychiatrist if your physician believe your migraines are triggered mostly by stress
- an otolaryngologist, or “ear, nose, and throat” (ENT) specialist, if you experience sinus symptoms during your migraines
- an allergist if you experience allergy-like symptoms during your migraines
- an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN)
- a pain-management specialist to help treat the pain associated with your migraines
Migraine clinics are another option. At these clinics you will have access to most if not all of the specialists listed above. Your doctor will likely recommend that you visit one of these clinics if your migraines are very severe.
There are many different triggers that can cause migraines. It may take some time before you and your doctor are able to figure out what your triggers are. Be patient and keep a headache journal. This will help you and your doctor figure out what your triggers are and create an appropriate treatment plan.