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What are Migraines?

Jane Harmon
Jane Harmon

Long thought to be a particularly severe type of headache, migraines are now categorized as a neurological disease with a number of causes and a variety of symptoms, ranging from annoying to life-threatening. Unlike regular headaches, which are felt when blood vessels in the head constrict, migraines are felt when they expand. If a sufferer takes medicine for a regular headache, it will only make the pain and other symptoms worse.

Those suffering from this condition can experience a wide range of effects, from numbing pain to sensitivity to light, from having difficulty speaking to seeing spots of light, or auras. It is thought that these symptoms are caused by overly-sensitive neurons, firing in a cascade effect at the presentation of a trigger.

Chocolate may trigger migraines.
Chocolate may trigger migraines.

A number of different triggers can instigate migraines in those who are susceptible. Some are out of the individual's control, such as particular weather patterns or phases of the menstrual cycle. Other triggers can be identified and avoided; these include foods such as chocolate, fish, certain cheeses, and monosodium glutamate. Environmentally, smoke, bright lights, or certain smells can also play a part.

Migraines are a neurological disease.
Migraines are a neurological disease.

Since the causes of migraines are invisible, it is all too easy for people around the sufferer to minimize the problem. Migraine disease should be taken seriously; the pain is quite real, and potentially dangerous. At its worst, it can lead to life-threatening aneurysms or strokes, and migraine sufferers are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke than those free of this disease. Birth control pills can increase the risk, so women who suffer from migraines should talk to a medical professional before choosing this method of birth control.

There is no known genetic component to having a predisposition to migraines. Certain forms of epilepsy can effect some sufferers, such that a migraine can trigger a seizure and vice versa.

New drugs are now available to assist in managing this disease. They are of two types: one is taken regularly to prevent or lessen the likelihood of attacks and the other is taken at the onset of a migraine to stop its progress.

Discussion Comments


I am 34 and I started having migraines about six years ago after having my son, so I know it is linked to hormones for me.

I agree with someone's post about dairy, especially milk. I had read that somewhere and stopped drinking milk and it helped. I take Topamax. It will works tremendously if you have insurance. I don't like the idea of taking meds every day so I wean myself off every now and again until I have another migraine. I get steroid injections in my lower back, so that triggers them for sure. I have to up my Topamax to 75mg's when I get my injections.

My menstrual cycle is another trigger. Taking magnesium every day seems to help and staying hydrated. Natural sunlight kills me; I have to wear shades constantly now. I have had tests done by an endocrinologist and my hormones are off a little. The doctor wasn't too concerned since I was deficient in one of the male hormones and I am a female. So anyway, this was my piece of the puzzle. Good luck everyone!


Do migraines have any cause? I have also been suffering with migraines for the past year. I also had a similar head injury in childhood and started getting headaches later thereafter. But the doctor said it has no connection at all and to stop worrying about how it happened.

Nothing can be done to even identify the cause, right? Take tablets regularly. Go for regular check ups. Do not stay awake longer in the night. Do not eat diet foods, do not eat too much non veg, do not consume more caffeine. These will reduce he frequency of migraines. You are so young. All the very best for your long life.


I have had migraines since I was a teenager and they only got progressively worse as I got older. I would miss work, school, and had to lie in a dark room with no sounds, doped up on pain meds that did not help while waiting for the migraine to subside.

I was prescribed Topomax about a year ago and and after slowly increasing my dose over a few months, I have only had a few very minor migraines over the last year. t is amazing and you should ask your doctor if it is right for you - it helped me and I am so thankful for it.

Yes, I have to take it every day, forever but it means the migraines are so rare that it is so worth it!


I had been experiencing frequent migraine headaches before discovering what was wrong with me. My parents and i went around trying to find the cause and cure. We consulted both conventional and traditional doctors.

Eventually, i discovered that these headaches had a lot to do with my lifestyle, especially with my diet. So started observing what i was taking and discovered that certain foods, such as dairy products when taken in excess triggered a migraine. Therefore, i decided to stop taking dairy products. From then on the frequency of these headaches has greatly decreased to about once in two years.

By the way, i have also turned into a vegetarian. With this, i am enjoying my life.


I have been suffering from migraines every day since june 2007. The pain never stops, and there is never any release from the pain. The pain starts behind my left eye, and it feels like someone is stabbing me in the eye. I have to avoid lights and sounds no matter what. The pain then takes over my entire left side of my head, all the way down to my neck. I find that I sometimes ground my teeth because of the pain.

I feel like my life revolves around sleeping and being doped up due to the medication for migraine pain. And believe me when I say that I have tried them all, and I am now even experimenting with Botox. Does anyone have any advice for me?


I am 25 years of age and have been experiencing severe migraines since I was 16 years old. Initially they were not as bad as they are now.

The pain starts behind my right eye and it sort of swells and becomes deshaped. It also burns a lot. There is a vertical pain from my neck bone all the way up to the area behind my eye and brain (all on the right hand side of my brain). I have also noticed that I normally get them when i do any sort of exertion or don't have proper meals. I take Obtalid N which is for all sorts of pain relief. If I don't take any medicine the pain doesn't stop on it's own. I am a student and have to manage a lot of things on my own and these severe pains have become a bad taste in my life. Kindly suggest as to what should I do about them.


Some migraine sufferers experience changes in vision, or aura, before a migraine attack. Many more women then men, something in the ratio of three to one have migraines with aura. Unfortunately, the medical field does not know the reasons why this happens.


I have been suffering from severe headaches for the past 15 years. it worsens with light and noise. it is usually one side behind eyes and extends up to shoulder, back and to hands too. i feel nausea too. the frequency of this kind of headache now has increased to 2-3 times per week. is it migraine? pls advise. my doctor has recently prescribed Betacap 40 for 1 month.


Hi I'm 27 years old I've been getting migraines since I was 5. They always start in my eyes and the right side of my head. The pain is so bad that i feel like my head is going to spilt open. I have been prescribed many different types of medication but none of them help or reduce my migraines. I have them more often since being older than when I was younger. I have a daughter that is 12 and she started getting them also at the age of 5. Hers doesn't seem to last as long as mine did but I still know her pain. Well, Thanks for listening.


Hello. The article and the comments & queries posted by other sufferers have made inspired me to write about myself. Dear doctor I am suffering from a pains since 6's only on the top right side of the head and at the back of my ears that pain badly. Sometimes it occurs when I am bending, doing some activity involving physical exercise, when I am excited or tensed etc. I got it checked through two neurologists but other than giving strong medicines nothing could be done more. The pain vanished with the beginning of the dosage but relapsed later. I can't face harsh lights, Laugh loudly etc. Sometimes do face nauseatic feelings in the morning. Do not know whether it is a migraine but surely it isn't anything psychogenetic. My MRI reports are normal too. Please suggest me something as this pain is not consistent but comes anywhere anytime.




I have being suffering migraines now for a least 25-30 years, i've had nearly all the tablets and for the last few years i've being taking Voltarol(diclofenac potassium). At first i was to take one at night before going to bed, this was a slow releasing tablet, it did help in reducing the amount of times i had migraines and if i woke up feeling that i had symptoms of a migraine attack i would take another one! the last couple of years i only needed to take one when i felt a migraine coming on. it did help but it also took the tablet time to work. im now on Voltarol RAPID 50mg which do work fast. as there is no cure for migraines the relief from one is better than nothing, and reducing the amount of times a year you suffer from an attack. i had a head injury when i was young, but i don't think its related to it!


i request you read this lengthy query of mine to relieve me of this head ache.

I have read your article on migraine.

Iam suffering frm migraine frm the past 10yrs.

my age is 22yrs now.

I have came to know that one of the reasons for anyone to develop migraine symptoms is injury.

when I was 11yrs old, the top of umbrella had stuck on the center of my head and at that time i had some head ache for 3-4 days.thre was no bleeding as the top of umbrella was flat.

after(3-4 months)of that incident i had developed blurring of my eyes(vision) before migraine attack and the attack was throbbing which lasted for 24hrs.

and from then I am having regular attacks.

frm the last 3yrs iam on tabs(betacap 40mg 1-1),(migarid-20mg 1) which reduced the intensity of attacs.

some of my symptoms before attack r:

1)vision disturbance(no head ache)


3)irritation towards lights, sounds even of small intensity

during visual disturbance if take any tablets iam vomiting them during the actual head ache phase.

iam taking paracetmol 600mg during severe headache to get some sleep.

Do you think these r related to that injury(OR) migraine?

i would be grateful to you if you can suggest me something?

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