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If you live with migraines, you might already be familiar with the pain and discomfort they cause. Migraines are a specific type of headache often identified by episodes of throbbing pain and, sometimes, nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. Migraines can be mild or severe, and they occur more commonly in women than in men.
Some people with migraines find that migraine pain is much more intense than the discomfort from a tension headache. Often, migraine headaches typically follow a four-stage pattern:
What Causes Migraines?
Some migraine sufferers report noticing small changes in their body 1-2 days before the migraine begins including constipation, diarrhea, depression, irritability, food cravings, or a stiff neck. This is called the Prodrome Stage.
Sometimes migraine sufferers will receive a warning symptom such as a flash of light, visual disturbance, blind spot, bright spot, speech problem, or tingling in an arm or leg. This warning is called the Aura Stage. At other times, there is no pre-warning.
The Attack Stage comes next with the a painful, pulsing, and throbbing head along with nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, diarrhea, and the feelings of dizziness, light-headedness and fainting.
The final phase, Postdrome, often leaves one feeling drained and washed out. However, others report a feeling of mild euphoria after a migraine has passed.
Experts don’t know exactly what causes migraines or why some people have them while others don’t. For most people with migraines, a combination of genetic and environmental causes is likely to blame. According to the Mayo Clinic, 90 percent of people who have migraines have a family history of them.
For people prone to migraines, certain foods and medications, along with stress, irregular sleep patterns, exercise and even changes in the weather may trigger these throbbing, often one-sided headaches. Some women report that their migraines occur more often at or around the start of their menstrual cycle. Additional factors associated with migraines include
But what makes people develop this type of headache to begin with? Scientists still don’t know, but many suspect nervous system sensitivities, genes and/or chemical imbalances in the brain may play a part.
Hormonal changes in women related to birth control medication and hormone replacement therapies, menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause
High levels of anxiety, worry, shock, depression, mental fatigue, grief, life changes, vacations, work projects, and repressed emotions
Environmental sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, glaring sunlight, computer screen usage, temperature and weather changes, smog, certain scents like perfume, paint thinner, and secondhand smoke