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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Migraines: What They Are and How to Manage Them?

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If you have ever had a migraine, then you would understand that it is the most painful feeling ever. You would almost want to drill your skull in order to relieve the pain, throbbing and intense pressure that you feel. Migraines are so intense that they distrust your day as well as every activity you have lined up for that day.

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If you are in this predicament and you think you are alone? Well, let us inform you that you are not the only person who is in this condition. As a matter of fact, research shows that about 12-20% of both men and women are also experiencing this.

But what exactly are migraines and how does one get them?

To simply put, migraines are headaches that are severe. According to a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic, Dr Zubair Ahmed, he said that the pain is often described as a throbbing pain which usually starts at one part of the head and gradually spreads. It usually lasts for as low as 4hours or as much as 3days.

When having migraines, you dare not indulge in any physical activity. Light, smell, and sound can worsen the condition. Once the situation starts to deteriorate, you may begin to have nausea and headaches.

About 20% of migraine sufferers often complain about having auras as an effect which precedes a migraine. Auras can include speech, cognitive, visual and sensory disorders. It can either include all or one of them, and they actually last for 5mins-60mins before migraines actually begin. This means that the very first thing you would notice when you are about to have a migraine is an aura.

The exact cause of migraines isn’t known, but one thing we are sure about is that if one of your parents had/have a headache, there is a chance you would also get it as well. According to a research report from the American Migraine Foundation, you have a 58%-70% chance of having a migraine if your parents had it. This, therefore, places heredity as one of the causes of this disease.

According to Dr Ahmed, he says that migraines often are genetical conditions. There is no escaping it if your parents had it. Even if you live a perfect lifestyle, you avoid all the triggers, and you ingest all the right medications, you still have the tendency to have a migraine if you are genetically predisposed to getting it.

Asides genetics though, another factor that has been seen to be a culprit is one’s lifestyle. When you live a healthy life that includes exercise and plenty of rest, then you might have a shot at controlling your migraine.

However, if your lifestyle is all about stress, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, lack of sleep and adequate rest, or repeated body trauma especially to the head, then you will most likely develop migraines.

According to an interview with menshealth.com, Dr Gary Jay who is a neurologist at the UNC health care, he usually said migraines usually begins in men during their early years. However, in some other men about 30%-40%, they start to get a migraine at within the ages of 20-40years.

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While there is no exact cure for migraines, there are however treatments and methods for controlling their effects. Dr Ahmed says that there is no specific cure for severe headaches, however, there are some ways to manage this chronic condition. Here are some of the ways to manage the condition and they include:

1. Taking riboflavin or supplements rich in magnesium

Why should you take magnesium? You may ask. Well, research has been conducted, and it has been found out that some supplements which are rich in magnesium and contain riboflavin which is Vitamin B2 has been seen to be beneficial in managing migraines.

A 2018 review that was published in the journal named Headache discovered that those who took 600mg of magnesium noticed a reduced occurrence of having migraines in their health. It had also been shown that if you take 400mg of riboflavin(Vitamin B2), you can reduce the frequency of having severe migraines to two a month.

2. Keep stress out of your life:

One of the significant triggers for many chronic conditions including a severe headache is stress. There are some chemicals that can be released due to pressure. When these chemicals are released, they either cause a migraine, or they make an existing migraine worse.

When you are under intense stress, there is a neurotransmitter known as epinephrine that is released. Also, not only epinephrine is released, cortisol which is otherwise known as the stress hormone is likewise released.

Once the stressful day or week reduces or comes to an end, these chemicals will also reduce inside the blood. It is at this point that you might begin to feel headaches and migraines and this kind of a migraine is often called the “Let-down” migraine.

3. Ensure you use only prescribed drugs when managing a migraine

This is an essential fact to note, and you may ask me how. In case you didn’t know this, there are two types of migraine prescriptions. You have the preventive migraine prescription and the abortive migraine prescription.

The ones you take immediately you notice your migraine has started is the abortive prescription. This is because one of the effects of abortive prescription is to stop a severe headache in its tracks and prevent it from becoming full blown.

One common abortive prescription drugs that one would commonly be given to help prevent a migraine from going any further is Triptan. Triptan works by causing the release of serotonin in the brain.

Once this release occurs, the vessels are constricted in the brain and blood can no longer flow to that particular area of the bean. This, in turn, reduces inflammation and hence the pain decreases.

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Sadly, for preventive prescriptions, there are only a few choices that there are and one of those choices include beta blockers. Beta blockers are drugs that inhibit the increase in blood pressure.

They have approved drugs, and they help in preventing migraines from occurring frequently. Some anti-seizure medications also have been seen to help prevent migraines. Drugs such as Depakote, Depacon, and Topamax have been observed to also reduce the occurrence of migraines by stopping them.

Also, there is a new drug which was recently discovered precisely in May 2018. The drug known as Erenubab works by blocking a molecule known as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). This peptide is also noticed to be elevated in patients who are battling migraines. This drug can be self-injected once every month.

According to Dr Ahmed, this drug has seen to have helped patients, and although for now, there has been no record of long-term side effects, this drug is recommended for people who have a migraine.

4. Increase your rate of having sex

We are not telling you to turn to a sex maniac. However, it has been discovered in a 2013 study that 60% of people who have sex regularly or have sex when having a migraine reported to have seen improvements in the pain they were feeling and had said their migraine actually subsided during sex.

5. Thou shall not eat processed foods

Migraines and processed foods are not friends at all. If you are a lover of junks and you do have a headache, your eating habit just might keep increasing your pain. According to Dr Jay, there are different dietary triggers for different folks.

In order to track your dietary trigger, it is important you keep a dietary diary or journal. Document your meals and note the ones that make your conditions either better or worse. Once you have identified your trigger, avoid it like the plague.

There is a substance always common in most junk foods called Monosodium Glutamate(MSG). This substance is mostly present in soups, Chinese foods, pizza, and so on. Also, beverages such as sodas, caffeinated drinks, energy drink, sweetened drinks and anything with artificial sweeteners have been seen to increase the pain gotten from a migraine.

6. Avoid alcohol like the plague

Alcohol is bad for both headaches and migraines. This is because alcohols contain congeners which have always been seen to cause to cause headaches and migraine.

Congeners are the byproducts gotten from the fermentation of alcohol. So you must stay clear of beers, alcoholic wines, beer, whiskey, rum, and any other liquor.

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7. Use Botox

You may be under the impression that botox is only used for wrinkles but this is a wrong notion. Botox has been seen to have an effect against migraine, and the FDA has since approved it since 2010.

Botox is now a general treatment for a migraine. Although this treatment has been prescribed for those with chronic migraines, however, those who have also presented with symptoms have also used this drug and have noticed that their symptoms reduced by 50%.

This drug works when a toxin known as botulinum toxin is injected directly into the nerve endings that makes its way into the brain and causes the blockage of chemicals which always relay pain signals to your head. Each treatment usually involves approximately 31 injections all around your head and neck region.

If you have noticed the symptoms of a migraine, you can try out these ways to see if you can both prevent and/or manage your symptoms. Don’t suffer in silence. Ensure you discuss with your physician to know which of the options you can try out.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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