A migraine is a common neurological condition but not all migraines are created equal. Here are the most common migraine myths our specialists affiliated with Memorial Hermann Mischer Neurosciences regularly encounter and address with their patients.
A migraine is more than just a bad headache. It is a specific type of headache that causes intense pain that is often throbbing or pounding. Migraines are considered a neurological disease, and it is one of the most common disabling conditions.
Migraine symptoms can vary widely. Symptoms may appear in different ways and at different times, depending on the person. Some common symptoms are nausea, sensitivity to smells, light and loud noises, difficulty concentrating or even numbness and weakness. During some migraine attacks you may only experience one or two symptoms, while other times the attack may be more severe.
An aura is a visual disturbance, such as temporary vision loss or blurred vision, or seeing flashing lights or bright spots. These visual symptoms often occur before headache pain begins. Some migraine attacks come with an aura, while others do not. Only about 30 percent of migraine sufferers experience an aura, and it may not appear with every migraine.
Women are more likely to suffer from migraines than men, but a significant number of men also experience migraines. 18 percent of women report having migraines, compared to 6 percent of men. Some experts believe that genetics plays the strongest role in predicting who will suffer from migraines, but there are some studies that link the condition to fluctuating hormone levels.
Caffeine actually improves symptoms and is found in many headache medications. For many people, caffeinated beverages may lessen the severity of migraine; however, consuming large amounts of caffeine is discouraged.
There is not a specific diet that will eliminate migraines. The list of foods that often trigger migraines (including red wine and various cheeses) is long and does not apply to everyone. Keeping track of the foods you eat and comparing them to instances when you experience a migraine attack is a good way to identify your specific triggers. This will also help your physician develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Migraines are not life-threatening; however, the intense pain felt during a migraine could be a symptom of another underlying neurological condition. Other types of severe headaches may be caused by neurological diseases such as a stroke or a brain tumor. Monitoring and tracking your migraine attacks and seeking care from a neurologist are important for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.
Imaging is usually not needed to diagnose migraine. Instead, a physician will conduct a thorough patient history and physical exam. Keeping a migraine or headache journal is important and can help make a diagnosis if pattern and consistency are found.
There is no cure for migraines, but with the right treatment plan, you may have fewer headache days each month. For some people, using over-the-counter pain medication and herbal supplements may reduce the severity of symptoms, but those often do not improve disabling or severe pain. Your neurologist may consider prescription migraine medication or other injectable options as a part of your treatment plan.
For some people, migraines can be prevented. You may be able to prevent migraines with certain strategies that involve medication and/or lifestyle changes, like managing stress, eating healthy foods and staying hydrated. Although some migraines are unavoidable, understanding your triggers can help prevent attacks.
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