Fitness Facts: Migraines, Part 1
First of two parts
By Jo Gott
Adult Nurse Practitioner
June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, and the theme this year is to “Sow the Seeds.”
The theme has been chosen for increased awareness, and it allows people with migraine headaches a forum in which to blog their experiences. People who suffer with migraines are writing not only about the headache itself, but how migraines can affect personal and work relationships.
This week, Part 1 of migraine headaches, includes some facts, information about migraine triggers, and signs and symptoms of a migraine headache. Next week, we’ll explore diagnosing migraines and various treatment options.
First, some statistics: Migraine headaches affect about 38 million people or 13% of adults in the United States. Women experience more migraines than men, and people between the ages of 35-55 are the prime target age. Almost 5 million in the U.S. experience at least one migraine attack per month, and 91% of people with migraines miss work during a migraine attack.
There is no known reason why migraines occur, but migraines are a recognized neurological disorder, not a disorder associated with “only stress.” Health care providers and patients have identified many triggers that people who experience migraines report. Triggers can be varied and include the following categories
- Foods: aged cheeses, chocolate, citrus fruits, cured meats, dried fruits, food additives, nuts, onions, salty foods and skipped meals
- Drinks: alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners or lack of fluids/dehydration
- Mental Health: stress, fatigue or depression
- Changes in hormones and changes in sleep pattern
- Other categories: Too much light, eye strain, too much noise, and changes in the weather
According to Medscape, the following are typical signs and symptoms of migraine headaches:
- Throbbing or pulsatile headache, with moderate to severe pain that intensifies with movement or physical activity
- One-sided and localized pain in either the forehead, or one side of the head or behind the eyes, but the pain may be felt anywhere around the head or neck
- Pain builds up over a period of 1–2 hours, progressing toward the back of the head
- Headache lasts 4 to 72 hours
- Nausea (80%) and vomiting (50%), including lack of appetite and food intolerance, and light-headedness
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Some people also experience a warning, called an “aura,” lasting from 5 to 60 minutes before the headache. This is most commonly a visual flashing light.
If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, know that these headaches are a form of a neurological disease and not simply “related to stress.” Please return next week for Part 2 to learn how the condition is diagnosed and the numerous treatment options available to help.