What Is Migraine? What are the symptoms of migraine headache, causes and treatment.
Migraine; (from Lat. hemicrania, referring to half of the skull), a disease featured by periodic attacks of headache, usually one-sided, accompanied by other symptoms referable to the nervous system such as vertigo, nausea, and partial loss of vision. Migraine usually takes onset in adolescence; attacks of cyclic vomiting in childhood may be a precursor. Headaches are recurrent, the interval between seizures being of varying length in days, weeks, or months. Head pain begins in the eye or frontotemporal region and soon involves one half of the head, or sometimes the whole cranium. Striking its victim frequently during a state of well-being and lasting proverbially “from sunup to sundown,” an attack of migraine leaves the exhausted sufferer to sleep for hours, and upon awakening he may feel unusually healthy. “Migraine equivalents” or substitute seizures include bouts of pain in the face, chest, abdomen, or extremities, diffuse edema, or fever without other explanation.
The excruciating headache which is the most prominent symptom of migraine is the result of paroxysmal enlargement of the branches of the external carotid artery, particularly the vessels in the soft tissues of the temple and also the middle meningeal artery, which supplies the inter-cranial dura mater (membrane). Neurologic phenomena which precede, accompany, or replace headache in many individuals are due to spasm of the intracranial- blood vessels. In other words, in a typical migraine attack arteries of the head outside the brain dilate, while arteries of the brain itself constrict—a paradox which is yet to be solved. “Fireworks” in one visual field are due to contraction of the ophthalmic artery; evanescent loss of half the field of vision in both eyes is caused by spasm of the opposite posterior cerebral artery; temporary hemiplegia (paralysis on one side) is the result of constriction of one middle cerebral artery.
Causes: Migraine is one of the most common functional diseases of civilized people and is a particular affliction of “brain workers.” The cause or causes of the condition are variable with the individual. Heredity plays such a definite role that the diagnosis is suspect if there is not a family history of similar periodic headaches. Stressful situations may precipitate attacks, or in many cases food allergy appears to be almost solely causative. Hormonal influences are often contributory in women, who are affected twice as often as men. Personality characteristics of the typically migrainous patient include meticulous personal habits, obsessive thinking, suppressed aggressive drives, perfectionism, rigidity, and fear of failure.
Treatment: Migraine treatment is directed largely at control of headache. If such ordinary analgesics as acetylsalicylic acid alone or in combination with caffeine or codeine are ineffective, medication containing ergotamine is in order. Rarely, surgical procedures which divide arteries or remove nerves in the soft tissues of the cranium are necessary. They are successful only if headache always recurs in one area of the head.
***This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a doctor warning or recommendation.