Migraine is a complex and disabling affliction that is estimated to affect up to 148 million people worldwide.
Although it’s a type of headache disorder, symptoms are often beyond just pain and can have significant impact on quality of life. Examples include: sensitivity to light, sound and smells, numbness, speech and language impairment, difficulty concentrating, vision problems, nausea and severe, throbbing pain in the head – just to name a few. A headache may just be one of the symptoms, and some people may not even get a headache during the attack.
What causes migraines?
The exact cause of migraines is still not well understood, but the problem is considered neurological (related to the nervous system), and are thought to be caused by a perfect storm of environmental and genetic factors.
Though the exact science of migraines is still not well understood, experts believe they are related to genetic mutations and changes in brain chemistry that send pain signals to the brainstem.
One thing we do know? Certain triggers, such as some foods, stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes and even weather can bring on an attack. Migraine triggers vary by individual, so make sure to keep an eye out for what causes your migraines to surface.
Triggers include stress, weather, hormones and even some foods
No two migraines are the same.
Think of it as a spectrum. Some people experience milder forms of the affliction, while for others, their attacks can be utterly debilitating. The frequency and length of attacks can vary. And then there are different types of migraine, each involving a different spectrum of symptoms.
Not only that, symptoms can vary from person to person. You could even experience different symptoms during different attacks.
There is no typical migraine – everyone’s experience is different. And so are their strategies for coping with migraine attacks.
There is no typical migraine – everyone’s experience is different
The toll of migraines
Migraines can strike out of the blue. Anyone who’s ever suffered an attack knows that not only can they be frightening, but the pain can be so severe that you may not be able to carry out even the simplest of daily tasks. And that can put a strain on your family, work and social lives.
That’s a heavy burden. But the good news is, it doesn’t always have to be. There are actions you can take to help minimize and manage – and even stay ahead of – attacks. The more you know about migraines, the more you can take control over them, and your life.
Who gets migraines?
The short answer – anyone can get them. However, some people are more likely to be affected:
- Women are 3 times more likely to get migraines than men
- 70% to 80% of sufferers have a family history of migraines
- About 2% of children under the age of 7 and about 10% of children up to the age of 15
- People who have epilepsy, depression, asthma, anxiety, stroke and other neurological disorders are more prone to migraines
Migraine vs. Headache
The difference between a headache and a migraine? A headache can be considered a disturbance, while a migraine can be much more debilitating.
Migraines differ from headaches in their duration, severity of pain, and other physical symptoms. While a headache can make you feel out of sorts for a few hours, a migraine can take you right out for days. Treating your migraine symptoms early may help to reduce the severity of the attack.