Migraines and Your Brain
Migraines are a neurological condition that cause severe headaches, as well as a host of other symptoms. They’re much more than just headaches; they can affect your vision and make you sensitive to light and sound. But migraines aren’t just physical — they can also have psychological effects, including anxiety and depression. There’s good news though: migraines don’t have to interfere with your life. Medications are available to prevent migraines, treat them when they occur, lower the risk of future episodes, or all three! Here is everything you need to know about migraines and how these painful conditions affect brain function:
Migraines are a neurological condition that cause severe headaches, as well as a host of other symptoms.
Migraines are a neurological condition that cause severe headaches, as well as a host of other symptoms. They’re the third most common illness in the world, after cancer and heart disease.
But unlike these other conditions, migraines aren’t only physical—they can also affect your mental health.
In fact, they often do. Migraines have been linked to mood disorders like depression and anxiety; they’re also associated with an increased risk of suicide ideation among adolescents and young adults who have migraines (though this link isn’t proven).
A migraine is much more than a headache.
Migraine symptoms can be much more than just a headache. The Mayo Clinic lists other possible migraine symptoms as:
- Nausea, often accompanied by vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Abdominal pain (on one side of the body)
- Visual disturbances, such as flashing lights or zigzag lines that appear to move across your vision when you look at bright lights; problems with eyesight; seeing double; blind spots in your field of vision; dimming of one eye or both eyes for longer than five minutes (known as an ocular migraine); temporary loss of vision or blindness in one eye (known as an ophthalmic migraine)
Not everyone who gets migraines has the same symptoms.
Not everyone who gets migraines has the same symptoms. In fact, a migraine can be different for different people—even among those who get them regularly. Some people experience visual disturbances like seeing spots or flashes of light, whereas others have more cognitive difficulties (think confusion, difficulty concentrating and remembering things), or even physical symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
The reason for these differences is that migraines aren’t necessarily caused by a single thing; instead they’re often triggered by several factors at once: some people may have triggers that include specific foods or drinks; others might find that certain activities increase their chances of getting migraines; still others might find that certain medications make their headaches worse.
Because there are so many possible causes for migraines (and because each person’s triggers are unique), diagnosing them can be tricky—especially since you can also get a headache from something like stress or illness that isn’t actually a true migraine at all!
Migraine triggers are highly individualized and can include certain foods and odors, changes in weather, stress and anxiety.
Migraines are a complex and individualized condition. While they can be triggered by certain foods or odors, changes in weather, stress, and anxiety—they can also be set off by genetics or family history.
Migraine triggers are highly individualized and can include certain foods and odors, changes in weather, stress and anxiety. For many people with migraines, the specific trigger may not be obvious. This could mean that it’s time to take note of any potential causes that might contribute to your headaches (e.g., diet triggers).
Medications are available to prevent migraines and treat them when they occur.
- Medications are available to treat migraines and prevent them.
- Medications can be used to treat and prevent migraines, or both.
For example, you could take a pill called sumatriptan when you feel the first symptoms of a migraine coming on, or you could take another medication called topiramate (Topamax) every day as a preventive measure. Migraine sufferers who are pregnant should consult their doctors before taking any new medications.
Migraines can make it harder for you to go about your daily life, but there are ways to manage them.
You may know someone who gets migraines or has had them in the past. They can be debilitating, but there are ways to manage them and even prevent them from happening.
- Preventing migraines: If you’re prone to migraines, try these tips from the National Headache Foundation:
- Get regular sleep (about seven hours) every night. This helps control stress levels, which can trigger a headache.
- Exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. Research shows that physical activity reduces tension and depression—both of which can lead to headaches.
- Treating migraines: When a migraine hits, here are some things that have shown promise for helping ease the symptoms:
- Light therapy—This involves sitting in front of bright lights for 20 minutes at a time (like those used by stand-up comedians). Studies suggest this helps ease pain by suppressing brain waves that cause nausea and vomiting during a migraine attack; however, it hasn’t been proven effective when used alone, so consult with your doctor before trying this method yourself!
Migraines can be debilitating, and it’s important to take them seriously. If you think you might have migraines, make sure to talk with your doctor so that they can diagnose and treat you appropriately.