MigrainesIt has been estimated that well over 20 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, making it one of the costliest and most incapacitating medical conditions in contemporary society. The number of women who suffer from this condition is roughly triple the number of men who suffer migraines and overall almost one-tenth of the population must deal with the devastating effects. There are two different types of migraines. The overwhelming majority—as much as 80%--experience the type known "migraine without aura" The other category is known "migraine with aura” and is accompanied by sensory disturbances that may include hallucinations, limited obstruction of the visual field, a numb or tingling sensation, or a feeling of heaviness. Much of the research into migraines today focuses on the theory that an attack is caused when nerve cells in the brain known as nociceptors release chemicals called neuropeptides.
It is theorized that one or more of the neurotransmitters raises the sensitivity to pain of the proximate nociceptors and that other neuropeptides operate on the muscles that envelop cranial blood vessels utilized in the regulation of blood flowing to the brain by contracting and constricting the vessels.
When a migraine attack begins, it is thought that these neuropeptides cause muscle relaxation, permitting vessel dilation and increased blood flow. Additional neuropeptides augment the permeation of cranial vessels and thereby allow extra leakage of fluid while also promoting inflammation and tissue swelling (Pain Management 2002). The discomfort that accompanies a migraine attack is assumed to result from this arrangement of increased pain sensitivity, tissue and vessel swelling, and inflammation. The aura that is frequently associated with migraine is thought to be related to constriction in the blood vessels that open in the headache phase. Vulnerability to migraine attacks may also be genetic in nature.
Offspring of a parent who suffers from migraines may be at as much as twice the risk for developing migraines themselves. When both parents are migraine sufferers the chance rises to 70%. However, the gene or genes responsible have not been identified, and many cases of migraine have no obvious familial basis. It is likely that whatever genes are involved set the stage for migraine, and that full development requires environmental influences, as well (Montagna, 2002, pp.
144-146). The classic migraine develops in four phases: prodrome, aura, headache, postheadache. Symptoms of migraine include health problems such as exhaustion, irritability, and lack of concentration occur during the prodrome stage, the first of the four stages. The prodrome phase commences roughly twenty-four hours prior to the aura phase. The aura phase may start with flashing lights or blind spots accompanied by a tingling sensation in the arms or legs. These indicators transpire usually 15 to 30 minutes before the headache actually kicks in.
Migraines can differ from person to person and may even differ from day to day for one person. The fourth stage is postheadache, which includes but is by no means restricted to extreme tiredness. A common cause of almost all migraines are things that are collectively known as “migraine triggers. ” Migraines can be triggered by an extensive assortment of foods, drugs, environmental and even acutely personal incidents. While it is not yet understood how most migraine triggers are released or why they affect individuals in the way that they do, many of the most common triggers are well known and even avoidable.