A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.
By Angela Young
Migraines are a chronic condition that consists of recurrent attacks of severe headaches. Migraines are a form of vascular headache that can last from 4 to 72 hours. The temporal artery enlarges during a migraine headache. The enlargement of the artery impacts the nerves that surround the artery. Migraines activate the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system impacts the primitive “fight or flight” response of the body. During a migraine the sympathetic nervous system’s impact on the intestine can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The activation of the sympathetic nervous system also delays the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine. If the stomach does not empty to the small intestine the body will be unable to absorb medication into the blood stream. This is the reason that medication has little effect on people suffering from migraines once the pain of the migraine headache begins.
Women tend to suffer from migraines more often than men, but overall, nearly 30 million people in the United States experience regular migraines. Migraines usually begin in childhood or early adulthood, but can also begin late in life. Most people who suffer with migraines do not receive a migraine diagnosis from the physician.
Common migraine symptoms during a migraine headache include sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cold hands and feet and facial pallor. Warning signs and symptoms that a migraine may occur often precipitates these symptoms and the migraine itself.
Symptoms of impending migraine include sleepiness, irritability, fatigue, yawning, cravings for salty or sweet foods and euphoria. These symptoms can occur in the hours or days prior to a migraine attack. Most patients and their families recognize these symptoms as those of a pending migraine attack.
Doctors do not completely understand the true cause of migraine headaches. Some believe that migraines occur due to changes in the trigeminal nerve. Others believe chemical imbalances in the brain may cause the migraines. Serotonin levels drop during a migraine, which is one of the reasons people think brain chemicals play a role in migraine attacks. Doctors do know that the pain of migraines is due to the temporal artery enlarging, which cause the nerves that coil around the artery to release the chemicals causing the pain and many of the symptoms associated with a migraine headache.
Most physicians diagnose migraines after carefully evaluating the symptoms patients report during their visits. Physicians will also take family history into account as they are working towards a diagnosis. In addition there are some tests that a physician may recommend to truly determine whether or not the headaches their patient reports are migraines or some other illness. Those tests include blood tests, brain scans such as MRI or CT, and occasionally a spinal tap procedure.
Various medications are usually the choice of treatment for migraine attacks. Advances in medications are helping migraine sufferers cope with their condition much better. Over the counter pain medications do not work as treatments for migraines.
The best treatments available at this time are migraine-aborting medications. Migraine-specific abortive medications work by constricting the temporal artery, which seems to be the source of the pain because of the impact it has on the nerves that surround it.
Triptans are the most common form of migraine-specific abortive medication that physicians prescribe. Until recently doctors did not regularly prescribe triptans as a migraine treatment unless a patient first tried counter medications. Now triptans are seen a viable option for treating migraine headaches as the first form of treatment. For maximum efficacy, migraine sufferers must take triptan medications in the beginning stages of a migraine attack.
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