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Be careful, your headache could be a migraine!

Published on:17 September 2021, 12:28pm IST
Don’t dismiss every headache as it can be a migraine instead! An expert tells you more about the difference, and what you can do to treat it.
Dr MV Padma Srivastava
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A headache and migraine are different. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Migraine is more than ‘just a headache.’ While a headache causes mild to severe pain in one’s head, face or neck, migraine is a neurological condition associated with recurrent, debilitating headaches that cause a severe throbbing pain. Patients typically describe this as either a ‘pounding’ or ‘pulsating sensation or a severe dull, steady ache, usually on just one side of the head. This is mostly accompanied by symptoms of nausea or vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia).

migraine
Take headache seriously. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Migraine affects roughly 15% of the adult population in Delhi NCR. Moreover, common migraine and tension headaches also affect women more significantly than men – with the male-to-female migraine prevalence ratio as 1:5. Yet, the condition remains poorly understood. Individuals often neglect the headaches and carry on in silence, or adopt home remedies or short-term pain relief solutions, without addressing the larger issue at hand.

Effects of migraine

For individuals living with migraine, especially untreated conditions, it can impact every aspect of life, posing difficulties in pursuing daily activities. It can affect an individual’s personal, social and professional lives during their prime productive years. Lasting from roughly 4 hours to as long as 72 hours or even a week, migraine can create difficulties at work – such as with concentrating, leading to poor work performance and productivity or even loss of working days. There is also an associated stigma among people who do not understand the severity of the disease (labeling it as just a headache’), which can make patients feel misunderstood, distressed and helpless. This is especially true for those experiencing a relatively high frequency of migraine attacks, with unmet treatment needs, which must be addressed in a timely manner.

migraine
Stress could trigger migraine. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Triggers of migraine

Although there is no definite cause for migraines, there are risk factors and triggers that may contribute to the condition. These include:

  • Environmental stimuli such as bright lights, severe heat, unusual smells, and loud sounds, excessive stress, skipping of meals, changes to sleep patterns, hormonal fluctuations.
  • Dietary triggers include alcohol and caffeine, cheese, fermented foods, meats with strong smells, and foods with additives such as MSG or certain artificial sugars.

Avoiding known triggers can be a vital step to manage migraines.

Also Read: Dealing with migraines? Adopt these 6 lifestyle changes to manage your pain

migraine
Seek proper medical treatment for migraine. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Be aware

Raising awareness about migraines is essential – so individuals can understand its signs and symptoms, seek diagnosis and benefit from holistic treatment plans such preventive therapies, guided by a neurologist. As healthcare practitioners, it is also important to lookout for red flags, which is singularly one of the most important part of timely migraine diagnosis.

Looking ahead, early detection and diagnosis of migraine and effective management of the condition, including making key lifestyle and dietary modifications while adhering to treatment, can be key enablers of a smoother patient journey. This can help patients live with an improved quality of personal and professional lives.

Dr MV Padma Srivastava Dr MV Padma Srivastava

Dr MV Padma Srivastava Head of the Neurology Department All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi