Migraine headaches are debilitating headaches that send thousands of people to emergency rooms and doctor’s offices each year. These headaches are called vascular headaches, and they are the result of enlarged blood vessels and chemicals from the nerves that wind around the blood vessels.
During a migraine attack, the temporal artery enlarges (the temporal artery is the one you can find on the outside of the skull, not within the brain. The artery is just under the skin near the temple).
As the artery expands, it stresses the nerves, as they are stretched around the enlarged artery. As the artery continues to expand, the pain increases. The sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear when the body feels pain.
This activity may cause the body to react with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It also may cause the stomach to empty its contents into the small intestine, therefore making it nearly impossible to absorb any over the counter medications. This is why man who get migraine headaches find that they don’t respond well to over the counter medications.
Those who suffer from migraines may not care about the technical explanations of what happens when they get a migraine, they simply wish the problem would go away. Because they are so debilitating, the headaches cause absenteeism, illness, and lack of productivity. Despite being so detrimental to the work forces and those at home, migraine headaches are often diagnosed incorrectly, or the patient simply never goes to a doctor, leaving the headaches under diagnosed.
If a person continues to get the migraines on the same side for repeated attacks, the person should see the doctor to rule out organic reasons for the headache, such as a tumor or aneurysm.
Many of those who suffer from migraine headaches say that the attacks are uni-lateral – meaning that they only affect one side of the head at once. The attacks often alternate between the two sides from one attack to the next attack.
The pain of a migraine headache is described as an intense and pounding pain. Sometimes the pain feels tight, and it can cause flashes in front of the eyes.The sufferer may feel that the world is closing in on them. The migraine often comes in conjunction with sensitivity to light or sound, a pallid color and tone to the skin, cold hands and feet, and a vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
Additionally, a typical attack can last from 4 to 7 hours. Those who have migraine headaches often wish to rest in the dark to “sleep them off” without the pain caused by a light and noise, so they go into a dark, quiet room to sleep.
Recovering from a migraine attack can take another day after the attack ends.
Migraines are generally diagnosed because all the symptoms associated with migraines are present in a person. They are often diagnosed in family members of migraine sufferers, indicating a family propensity for the illness.
Migraine headaches may respond to chemicals in the form of over the counter drugs, but will likely need other tactics to mitigate the symptoms associated with these headaches.