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How Does A Migraine Affect Your Body

Theories About Migraine Pain

What Is a Migraine Headache?

Older theories about migraines suggested that symptoms were possibly due to fluctuations in blood flow to the brain. Now many headache researchers realize that changes in blood flow and blood vessels don’t initiate the pain, but may contribute to it.

Current thinking regarding migraine pain has moved more toward the source of the problem, as improved technology and research have paved the way for a better understanding. Today, it is widely understood that chemical compounds and hormones, such as serotonin and estrogen, often play a role in pain sensitivity for migraine sufferers.

One aspect of migraine pain theory explains that migraine pain happens due to waves of activity by groups of excitable brain cells. These trigger chemicals, such as serotonin, to narrow blood vessels. Serotonin is a chemical necessary for communication between nerve cells. It can cause narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body.

When serotonin or estrogen levels change, the result for some is a migraine. Serotonin levels may affect both sexes, while fluctuating estrogen levels affect women only.

For women, estrogen levels naturally vary over the life cycle, with increases during fertile years and decreases afterwards. Women of childbearing age also experience monthly changes in estrogen levels. Migraines in women are often associated with these fluctuating hormone levels and may explain why women are more likely to have migraines than men.

Who Gets Migraines What Are The Risk Factors

Its difficult to predict who may get a migraine and who may not, but there are risk factors that may make you more vulnerable. These risk factors include:

  • Genetics: Up to 80% of people who get migraine headaches have a first-degree relative with the disease.
  • Gender. Migraine headaches happen to women more than men, especially women between the ages of 15 and 55. Its likely more common in women because of the influence of hormones.
  • Stress level. You may get migraines more often if youre high-stress. Stress can trigger a migraine.
  • Smoking.

What Really Happens To Your Body When You Get A Migraine

Migraines impact millions of people worldwide, and chances are good that you suffer from them yourself or know someone who does. Those who have never experienced the pulsating pain, the nausea, and the debilitating sensitivity might find it next to impossible to truly understand what sufferers are going through. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, it’s now classified as a neurological disorder that’s the sixth most disabling disease in the world.

Migraines present themselves in a myriad of ways, with people experiencing different combinations of triggers, symptoms, and even after-effects. That’s made it incredibly difficult to determine just what causes migraines, how to prevent them, and even what goes on during this crippling, painful headache. There’s no cure for migraines, and no cause that’s completely understood yet. That said, we do know some of what goes on in the body and brain during a migraine. Understanding that might help you take extra steps to managing triggers, symptoms, and occurrences, and any step in the right direction is a welcome one.

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How Can I Tell If I Have A Migraine Or Just A Bad Tension

Compared with migraine, tension-type headache is generally less severe and rarely disabling. Compare your symptoms with those in this chart to see what type of headache you might be having.

Migraine vs. bad tension-type headache

Aura before onset of headachex

Note: Rebound headache may have features of tension and/or migraine headache. Adapted from a table produced by the American Council for Headache Education.

Although fatigue and stress can bring on both tension and migraine headaches, migraines can be triggered by certain foods, changes in the body’s hormone levels, and even changes in the weather.

There also are differences in how types of headaches respond to treatment with medicines. Although some over-the-counter drugs used to treat tension-type headaches sometimes help migraine headaches, the drugs used to treat migraine attacks do not work for tension-type headaches for most people.

You can’t tell the difference between a migraine and a tension-type headache by how often they occur. Both can occur at irregular intervals. Also, in rare cases, both can occur daily or almost daily.

Dehydration May Not Be The First Domino

The Types Of Headaches You Get Can Reveal A Lot About The ...

We were stuck for now and took a break. We spent some time working on our research with partners for the new Migraine Buddy Weather reports and the new Trigger reports, a massive milestone for the team.

This is when the idea became obvious: the trigger report was designed to solve the domino effect of triggers. I define this as the overwhelming sensation people face when trying to identify which trigger to focus on and control. In most cases, people discover more than 1 potential trigger that they could be reacting to.

Triggers are like a domino effect. Is dehydration one of your dominos?

Can you anchor it and stop the movement? To complicate things, these triggers may also be sensitivities that influence each other, like dominos pushing each other down in a row. Its like how when youre stressed, you eat more junk food, have worse sleep, and others! All of those add up and affect your migraine threshold and the conditions of your attack.

What domino effect can we suspect around dehydration? Could dehydration be hidden in another trigger? The first thing that came to mind was alcohol, but that is easy to control and track trigger.

We represented the logic on the board with a Venn diagram, which helped us represent potential areas where you could also be dehydrated.

I hope this article answered your questions! We can only do it thanks to the Migraine Buddy community. In the meantime, please hydrate yourself as much as possible. Your body will thank you!

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What Happens In Your Brain During A Migraine

    Scientists used to think migraines were caused by blood vessels on the surface of your brain dilating and constricting, leading to the pulse of pain people often experienced. They saw migraines as being primarily a vascular disorder. Thats changed. We now know that these changes are the end result of a more complex nerve pathway in the brain.

    Today, researchers believe migraines are a neurological disorder thats largely genetically based. They still dont understand everything that happens during a migraine, such as why certain symptoms occurbut they are closer to untangling the mystery of the migraine.

    Heres what researchers believe happens inside your brain to cause the symptoms you are experiencing.

    The Development Of White Matter Lesions And Infarct

    The idea sounds pretty terrifying, and the truth is, scientists aren’t exactly sure just what’s going on in the brains of migraine sufferers and whether or not any of the observed changes do have long-term or detrimental effects. They do know, though, that migraines seem to cause the development of lesions in the brain’s white matter.

    White matter is the part of the brain that enables the different parts to communicate with each other, and MRI scans of people who suffer from migraines tend to show the development of what’s technically called white matter hyperintensities, or WMH. The more often migraines occur, the more completely they develop, and they also seem to be more common in those that experience auras with their headaches. That being said, the development of brain lesions might seem like a terrifying thing, but medical professionals say that it’s perfectly normal. There are no symptoms or issues associated with WMHs, and migraines aren’t the only things that cause them, either. Alzheimer’s patients also show the development of WMH and, in some cases, it’s simply linked with age.

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    The Forecast: High Humidity/sticky

    Your weather worries: Ear infections and gout

    Outer ear infection or otitis becomes more common when humidity is high, as the ear canal is more likely to get damp.

    This creates the perfect warm and moist environment for bacteria to flourish.

    Otitis is an inflammation of the skin lining the ear canal and can cause itching and discharge. Research at Nahdha Hospital in Oman found that people living in areas with high humidity were twice as likely to have problems with ear wax because of these bacteria.

    Attacks of gout are more frequent on days of high humidity, possibly because of the effects of dehydration, a Boston University study found.

    Are They Treated Differently

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    Not really. Experts aren’t sure what causes auras, so there’s nothing special you can do about them. It’s about treating the migraine symptoms and preventing more attacks.

    To ease migraine symptoms:

    • Stay in a quiet, dark room.
    • Put cold compresses or pressure on the painful areas.
    • Take pain-relieving medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, ketorolac, or naproxen. People under the age of 19 should not take aspirin.
    • Use prescription drugs, such as almotriptan , eletriptan , frovatriptan , lasmiditan , naratriptan , rizatriptan , and sumatriptan , which help narrow blood vessels.
    • Ergots and gepants may also ease migraine pain.
    • Use medications to treat other migraine symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

    To prevent migraines:

    Medications. If other treatments donât work and you have 4 or more migraine days a month, your doctor may suggest preventive medicines. You take these regularly to make headaches less severe or less frequent. They include seizure medicines, blood pressure medicines , and some antidepressants. CGRP inhibitors are a new class of preventive medicine that your doctor may recommend if other medicines donât help.

    Keep a headache diary. It will help you spot things that might trigger your migraines. Diary entries should include things like the date and time of your headache, any foods you had eaten, what you did, and medication you took just before the headache began. It may take 6 to 8 weeks or longer to begin to see patterns and triggers.

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    Research Data On Race And Ethnicity

    Migraine can be a debilitating condition that is underdiagnosed and challenging to treat. This can be seen especially in BIPOC populations. People of Color are less likely to receive the diagnosis of migraine and the treatment than white people.

    In fact, only 47% of African Americans have an official migraine diagnosis, compared with 70% of white people in the country. And other research found that Latino people are 50% less likely to receive a formal migraine diagnosis than white people. These disparities can impact treatment and therapies.

    While these figures could lead to the conclusion that white people experience more migraine episodes than other groups, looking at the average prevalence of severe headache or migraine from 2005 to 2012 in the U.S. found that the prevalence rates of episodes across all groups were similar:

    • 17.7% of Native American people
    • 15.5% of white people
    • 14.45% of Black people
    • 9.2% of Asian people

    Furthermore, females in all groups were approximately twice as likely to experience migraine episodes than males.

    Overall, studies that discuss migraine and use racial and ethnic differences for clarity often do not consider contributing factors. Further research is warranted, and this should consider behavioral, environmental, genetic, and socioeconomic factors, as well as access to healthcare.

    Common Symptoms Of A Migraine Include:


    Even though headaches are extremely common, diagnosing the exact cause of the pain can be a challenge. The reason is simple. There are many kinds of headaches and it can be difficult to identify the exact trigger causing the headache. In the absence of any precise clinical tests to diagnose headaches, it becomes paramount for the patient to work with the practitioner closely. The more detailed and accurate the patients information, the more correct the diagnosis is likely to be. Keep a headache diary so you have all the details handy.

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    How The Blind Are Unlocking Migraine Sufferers’ Sensitivity To Light

    One of the biggest symptoms of a full-blown migraine is sensitivity to light, and it can also be a trigger. In order to try to find out just why that’s such a major part of migraines for so many people, researchers from Harvard took a look at what was going on when two groups of people, all blind, suffered from migraines.

    One group was made up of people who were completely blind due to various types of diseases and disorders of the eye, while the other group suffered from degenerative diseases and were only considered legally blind. The first group could detect no light at all , while the second group could. When they exposed the first group to light that triggered sensitivity in sighted suffers, none reported that their migraines got any worse. The second group reported an increase in pain, and that helped to narrow down just what was going on in their brains. The optic nerve is what gives your brain signals regarding light, and it was only the patients that had intact optic nerves who described the sensitivity to light.

    When To Get Medical Advice

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    You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms that cannot be managed with occasional use of over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol.

    Try not to use the maximum dosage of painkillers on a regular or frequent basis as this could make it harder to treat headaches over time.

    You should also make an appointment to see a GP if you have frequent migraines , even if they can be controlled with medicine, as you may benefit from preventative treatment.

    You should call 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone you’re with experiences:

    • paralysis or weakness in 1 or both arms or 1 side of the face
    • slurred or garbled speech
    • a sudden agonising headache resulting in a severe pain unlike anything experienced before
    • headache along with a high temperature , stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision and a rash

    These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a stroke or meningitis, and should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.

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    When Should I Seek Help For My Headaches

    Sometimes, headache can signal a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor about your headaches if:

    • You have several headaches per month and each lasts for several hours or days
    • Your headaches disrupt your home, work, or school life
    • You have nausea, vomiting, vision, or other sensory problems
    • You have pain around the eye or ear
    • You have a severe headache with a stiff neck
    • You have a headache with confusion or loss of alertness
    • You have a headache with convulsions
    • You have a headache after a blow to the head
    • You used to be headache-free, but now have headaches a lot

    Chemicals Cause Additional Symptoms

    Your brain also responds to the brainstem activation by releasing chemicals called neuropeptides, including serotonin, noradrenalin, prostaglandins and others. Once released, they travel to the outer layer of your brainthe meningeswhich results in inflammation and swelling of blood vessels, causing an increase in blood flow around the brain.

    This is likely the cause of the throbbing, pulsing pain most people experience during migraine. While the pain may be originating from the surface of your brain, you may feel it in your eyes, temple area, neck, face or sinuses. These neurochemicals also can transmit signals to the part of the brain that controls appetite, and .

    Another phenomenon that occurs as a result of this inflammation and chemical interplay is skin super-sensitivity. About 80% of migraine sufferers experience whats called cutaneous allodynia that causes things like earrings, necklaces, neckties and eyeglasses to become painful. Some people say even their hair hurts this chemical reaction is why.

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    What Tests Are Used To Find Out If I Have Migraine

    If you think you get migraine headaches, talk with your doctor. Before your appointment, write down:

  • How often you have headaches
  • Where the pain is
  • How long the headaches last
  • When the headaches happen, such as during your period
  • Other symptoms, such as nausea or blind spots
  • Any family history of migraine
  • All the medicines that you are taking for all your medical problems, even the over-the-counter medicines
  • All the medicines you have taken in the past that you can recall and, if possible, the doses you took and any side effects you had
  • Your doctor may also do an exam and ask more questions about your health history. This could include past head injury and sinus or dental problems. Your doctor may be able to diagnose migraine just from the information you provide.

    You may get a blood test or other tests, such as CT scan or MRI, if your doctor thinks that something else is causing your headaches. Work with your doctor to decide on the best tests for you.

    How To Get Rid Of A Migraine

    How Stress Affects Your Body

    Dim The Lights

    Firstly, make sure to dim the lights when suffering from migraine. Bright lights can end up increasing your headache, and that is something you do not want. Moreover, wearing glasses while going out may help. Other than that, you should also minimize your screen time and give rest to your eyes.

    Get A Massage

    Moving on, massage can do wonders for you and make you feel a lot better. A massage doneon their foreheads, neck, and shoulders can help ease the pain. This will ease tension and will lessen the pain. Also, a good massage will help reduce your migraine, so make sure to keep that in mind.

    Sleep Well

    Another thing you can do is to sleep well. Sleeping well will ease the pain in no time. This plays a major role when it comes to your migraine. Not to add, if you dont get a good nights sleep, your migraine could even get worse. Sleep well, and you will end up feeling quite better.


    Stress is one of the major factors that lead to a migraine. This is one of the reasons you need to relax your mind. Let go of all the thoughts that are making you feel this way. You should think positively during this time in order to feel better.

    Stay In A Quiet Area

    Make sure to stay in a quiet area when going through a migraine. A loud noise can end up making your condition a lot worse, and that is something you do not want to do. Stay in a quiet area and relax for a while. You will end up feeling better soon.

    When To See A Doctor?

    Thats it!

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