What is a Migraine?

Migraine headaches can cause varying amounts of pain for the people who suffer from this condition. Migraines can last for days and the pain is often excruciating. Although the exact reasons why some people get migraines are not fully known, there are various theories, such as brain chemical imbalances and brainstem changes.

It is also believed that there are numerous circumstances that can initiate a migraine. These include fluctuating hormones in females, certain foods and beverages, stress, weather changes, specific medications and vigorous physical activity.

What are the Symptoms of a Migraine?

Before, during and after a migraine headache, individuals may feel various symptoms as they go through one or more stages.

Symptoms include

A day or two before a migraine, individuals may go through the prodrome stage which causes mood swings, a stiff neck and thirst. Individuals may experience the aura stage either before or while they are having a migraine. These symptoms include seeing spots or bursts of light, problems when talking and facial numbness.

The stage of attack, which can last up to 72 hours, may consist of throbbing head pain, light sensitivity, blurry vision and vomiting. Postdrome is the last stage and it often lasts for 24 hours. During this period, individuals may feel weak, dizzy and confused.

How is a Migraine Treated?

Migraine treatments are used to prevent headache symptoms and to avert episodes in the future.

Treatments include

Medications that relieve pain are taken when a migraine is occurring. Common prescriptions include triptans, opioid drugs, ergots, glucocorticoids and medications that help nauseousness. Other medications can be prescribed to prevent migraines or to lessen theirĀ  intensity. These may include onabotulinumtoxinA, anti-seizure medication, antidepressants and beta blockers. Some individuals also try alternative medicine, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, herbs and biofeedback, to control or lessen chronic migraine headaches.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017