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How To Stop A Migraine Once It Starts

What Are The ‘red Flags’ That My Visual Symptoms Are Not Due To Migraine

How Can I Stop a Migraine Before It Starts? – Adel Olshansky, MD – Neurologist

The typical symptoms of a visual migraine are positive, meaning that there is something shimmering or sparkling that is disrupting the vision. Migraines are less likely to cause “negative” symptoms of pure visual darkness. An episode of visual darkness typically requires additional evaluation for other conditions, including a mini-stroke .

What Is A Migraine

Migraines are frequent, painful and long-lasting headaches that usually have four distinct phases:

  • Prodrome. In the 2448 hours before a migraine, you may notice mood changes, neck stiffness, increased thirst and constipation.
  • Aura. About 25% of people with migraines experience the aura phase, which can include seeing lights or spots, blurred or double vision, and even difficulty speaking.
  • Headache. This is a throbbing or pulsating headache, usually on one side of the head. During this phase, you may experience nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Postdrome. After the headache itself goes away, you may feel exhausted or confused for a day or more.

Can Stress Cause Migraines

Yes. Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache. Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or having a baby can cause stress. But studies show that everyday stresses not major life changes cause most headaches. Juggling many roles, such as being a mother and wife, having a career, and financial pressures, can be daily stresses for women.

Making time for yourself and finding healthy ways to deal with stress are important. Some things you can do to help prevent or reduce stress include:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Being active
  • Doing relaxation exercises
  • Getting enough sleep

Try to figure out what causes you to feel stressed. You may be able to cut out some of these stressors. For example, if driving to work is stressful, try taking the bus or subway. You can take this time to read or listen to music, rather than deal with traffic. For stressors you can’t avoid, keeping organized and doing as much as you can ahead of time will help you to feel in control.

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Caffeine Could Stop Them In Their Tracks

There are a lot of things that are still not known about the ocular migraines. Drinking caffeine, in any form that you like such as soda or coffee, may help alleviate these symptoms.

We don’t know for sure, at this time, if the caffeine actually helps the ocular symptoms, or just stops the migraine from progressing, and stops the headache pain afterwards.

It is well worth a trial and error experiment, if you don’t drink coffee every day already.

You can read more about using caffeine as a migraine treatment on this post caffeine and migraines.

Eat Natural Whole Foods

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Its important to eat natural whole foods to prevent migraines.

Meredith Barad, MD, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University, recommends Minimizing caffeine and sugar. Minimize processed foods in your diet, and avoid chemical triggers like MSG and nitrites, which may trigger migraine in some people.

Additionally, Dr. Barad says, Stay away from carbs and sugar. Instead, eat a protein and veggie when youre hungry. And if you dont recognize an ingredient on a food label, do not put it in your body!

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What Medicines Help Relieve Migraine Pain

For mild to moderate migraines, over-the-counter medicines that may help relieve migraine pain include:

  • aspirin
  • acetaminophen
  • an acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine combination
  • ibuprofen
  • naproxen
  • ketoprofen

People who have more severe migraines may need to try abortive prescription medicines. A medicine called ergotamine can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine is related to ergotamine and can be helpful. Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan, and frovatriptan.

If the pain wont go away, stronger pain medicine may be needed, such as a narcotic, or medicines that contain a barbiturate . These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously. Your doctor may prescribe these only if they are needed and only for a short period of time.

Use A Multidisciplinary Approach

I also tell my patients they have to take a holistic approach to managing migraine, Cowan says. I believe it takes a village to raze a headache, and this means using a multidisciplinary approach.

One way of doing this is to pay attention to your life. Cowan recommends, Dont let the clutter pile up. If you didnt sleep well one night, avoid wine that day.

He also adds, You cant live in a cave with migraine. You take the precautions you can, and then live your life.

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Protect Yourself From Light Exposure

One thing that might help is the wearing of sunglasses inside or out! Polarized sunglasses, in particular, can help protect your eyes from the glare of interior lighting or computers.

There are times when the light is actually the trigger for the ocular migraine and sitting or lying in a dark room can be very beneficial.

If this is not possible, shut your eyes and try to rest for at least 15 minutes.

For example, looking at this picture feels like it is triggering a migraine for me. So glare is definitely a trigger for me. But I never leave the house without my polarized or migraine tinted sunglasses.

These are great:

Exercise Regularly To Prevent Migraine Headaches

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Regular physical activity will keep your body weight in check. It is also effective in offering migraine relief. It because physical activity will release certain chemicals in the body. These chemicals are responsible for blocking pain signals to the brain. These chemicals can also manage issues like depression and anxiety, the two primary triggers of migraine. You can include any exercise you enjoy in the daily routine. But, vigorous exercises can trigger migraines. So, ease into physical activity gradually and take it easy.

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How Migraine Progresses Over Time

According to a 12-year retrospective study on how migraines progress over time, 3 of 10 of people with Migraine who had been getting 1 to 6 attacks per month reported that their attacks had stopped

The researchers, led by Dr. Carl Dahlof of the Gothenburg Migraine Clinic in Sweden, found that of the remaining patients who continued to experience attacks 12 years later, most had fewer, briefer, and milder attacks. That’s also good news.

  • Fewer Attacks for most: 80% reported a change in attack frequency, with 80% of them have fewer attacks and 20% have more.
  • Shorter attacks for most: 55% reported a change in the duration of attacks, with 66% of them saying their attacks lasted shorter periods of time and 34% saying they lasted longer.
  • Less intense pain for most: 66% said the pain intensity changed, with 83% of them experiencing milder pain and 17% experiencing more severe pain.

Now, the bad news: a small percentage progressed to the more disabling form known as chronic Migraine , defined as having attacks more than 15 days a month.

The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study found that 2.5% of the US population lives with chronic migraine – including many of us.

Another large, real-world study, the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcome Study followed 12,000 people with Migraine in the U.S. to discover the factors that increase the likelihood of episodic migraine attacks turning chronic. They discovered five risk factors that reliably predict Migraine progression

What Symptoms Must You Have To Be Diagnosed With A Migraine

Migraine with aura . This is a headache, plus:

  • Visual symptoms or vision loss.
  • Sensory symptoms .

Migraine without aura . A common migraine is a headache and:

  • The attacks included pain on one side of your head.
  • Youve had at least five attacks, each lasting between four and 72 hours.

Plus, youve experienced at least one of the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Lights bother you and/or you avoid light.
  • Sounds bother you and/or you avoid sounds.

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Will Your Migraines Get Better Or Worse In The Future

“This is my struggle! I just pray every day and hope someday I’ll be healed!” said community member Michelle Frazier. If only we knew what the future holds.

We all want to know when this Migraine pain is going to stop and if it ever will.

Will it get better? Will it get worse? Will my vacation, birthday or wedding day be a Migraine disaster? Will I be able to enjoy chocolate or wine or bright sunshine again? Is there any way I can stop chronic migraines in the future?

That’s what we want to know. Yet, doctors can’t give you a definitive answer, because Migraine attacks are generally unpredictable. A large study is finding what increases your risk of progressing from episodic to often disabling chronic migraine – something every person with Migraine should know.

The great news? Most of us WILL get better with age!

Who Gets Migraines What Are The Risk Factors

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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.

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What Are Some Migraine Risk Factors And Triggers

Some things make you more likely to get migraine headaches . Other things may bring on a migraine .

Common migraine risk factors include the following:

  • Family history: You are much more likely to have migraines if one or both of your parents had migraines.
  • Sex: Women are more likely than men to have migraines.
  • Age: Most people have their first migraine during adolescence, but migraines can start at any age, usually before age 40.

Common migraine triggers include the following:

  • Food and drink: Certain food and drink may cause migraines. Dehydration and dieting or skipping meals may also trigger migraines.
  • Hormone changes: Women may experience migraines related to their menstrual cycles, to menopause, or to using hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
  • Stress: Stress may trigger migraines. Stress includes feeling overwhelmed at home or work, but your body can also be stressed if you exercise too much or dont get enough sleep.
  • Senses: Loud sounds, bright lights , or strong smells may trigger migraines.
  • Medicines: Certain medicines may trigger migraines. If you think your migraines might be related to your medicine, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
  • Illness: Infections, such as the cold or the flu, may trigger migraines, especially in children.

Foods that may trigger migraines:

  • aged, canned, cured, or processed meat
  • aged cheese
  • soy sauce

Drive With Caution Or Not At All

Common sense will tell you that if you have ocular migraine symptoms while driving, pull over and stop the car.

Make sure you have a mobile or cell phone with you to call someone to come and get you.

You can always get the car later. Or call a taxi so you can get home and rest. Resting for at least 15 minutes might help – try lying down in the back seat and covering your eyes for complete darkness.

Do not attempt to operate machinery or drive while experiencing an ocular migraine.

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Identifying And Managing Triggers

Migraine triggers are specific to individuals. A headache diary is a helpful tool to aid patients in identifying particular triggers, monitoring the number of headache days, and documenting therapeutic response. Common triggers include delayed or missed meals, menstruation, stress, weather changes, alcohol, and certain odors. Common dietary triggers include chocolate, soft cheeses, red wine, and artificial sweeteners and additives such as monosodium glutamate.5,6 Caffeine can be helpful in relieving headache pain, but acute withdrawal from daily consumption can be a trigger . After triggers are identified, a physician can recommend ways to manage these triggers, such as avoiding certain foods, establishing regular mealtimes, managing stress, and evaluating and treating underlying sleep disorders or psychiatric conditions.


Delayed/missed meals



Sleep disturbances


Information from references 5 and 6.


Delayed/missed meals



Sleep disturbances


Information from references 5 and 6.

Are Migraines Hereditary

Drink To Stop Your Migraine Headache Within Minutes

Migraines tend to run in families. As many as four out of five people with migraines have a family history. If one parent has a history of migraines, their child has a 50% chance of having them. If both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%. Again, up to 80% of people with migraines have a first-degree relative with the disease.

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What Are The Symptoms

Before a migraine starts, there is often a warning period when you don’t feel well. Some people have vision changes before their head starts hurting. They lose part of their vision or see bright spots or zigzag patterns in front of their eyes. These warning symptoms are called migraine aura. The vision changes of the aura usually go away as the headache begins.

Migraine symptoms may include:

  • pain that gets worse with physical activity
  • extreme sensitivity to light, smells, and sounds
  • nausea
  • vomiting

The pain is usually more severe on one side of the head, but it can affect the whole head.

Sometimes a migraine can cause symptoms such as numbness or even weakness. However, these can also be symptoms of a stroke. If you have these other symptoms along with problems with your vision, do not assume a migraine is the cause. Call your healthcare provider right away.

How Are Migraines Diagnosed

Your doctor will ask a lot of questions to see what might be causing the symptoms, and will examine you, paying particular attention to the neurological exam. He or she may ask you to keep a headache diary to help figure out what triggers your headaches. The information you record will help the doctor figure out the best treatment.

Sometimes, doctors may order blood tests or imaging tests, such as a CAT scan or MRI of the brain, to rule out medical problems that might cause a person’s migraines.

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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

What Should I Do When A Migraine Begins

How to Prevent Headaches and Migraines

Work with your doctor to come up with a plan for managing your migraines. Keeping a list of home treatment methods that have worked for you in the past also can help. When symptoms begin:

  • If you take migraine medicine, take it right away.
  • Drink fluids, if you don’t have nausea during your migraine.
  • Lie down and rest in a dark, quiet room, if that is practical.

Some people find the following useful:

  • A cold cloth on your head
  • Rubbing or applying pressure to the spot where you feel pain
  • Massage or other relaxation exercises

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Consider What Caused It

If you can determine the cause of your migraine, you may be able to take additional steps to find relief. For instance, are you getting a migraine because you havent had enough to eat today? Some migraines can be triggered by a lack of food, which can cause . If you think your headache is triggered by hunger, eat something thats easy on the stomach such as saltine crackers. This, in combination with your medications, may give you additional relief. The National Headache Foundation says some people may crave carbohydrates just before a migraine hits. If this is the case, listen to your body and have a snack.

Dehydration can cause headaches too, and may make your migraine worse. If you havent had enough fluids today, get a drink of water. Sip slowly to avoid triggering nausea or vomiting.

Medications To Stop An Active Migraine

Treatment of migraine typically focuses on one of two areas: easing the symptoms of a migraine after it starts, or preventing a migraine from occurring. There is no cure or medication that keeps all migraines from occurring.

In most cases, a medication can be found that will help relieve symptoms of a migraine once it begins. A number of medications are designed to halt a migraine within about 2 hours after onset. However, finding the best treatment to stop a migraine may be a process of trial and error.

Both prescription and over-the-counter medications may be used to treat an ongoing migraine.

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