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Migraines are persisting headaches that recur frequently. This is often accompanied by nausea, visual disturbances or sensitivity to light.

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The pain of a migraine headache is usually concentrated on one side of the head. This throbbing feeling may persist anywhere from 6 to 48 hours. Migraines are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, light and sound sensitivity, fatigue, irritibility and numbness or tingling feelings. Often there is a "warning" when a migraine is about to occur. This often takes the form of visual disturbances, such as seeing stars or lines. After a migraine, people often have difficulty concentrating and feel exhausted. Neck pain also accompanies some migraine headaches.

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Migraines often occur in times of stress. These sometimes debilitating headaches cause great difficulties concentrating and can lead to difficulties in work, and in personal lives. Irritability symptoms can damage relationships with children, friends and spouses. In extremely rare cases, migraines can cause strokes due to the narrowing of the arteries.

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Possible Causes

Migraines affect about 6% of the population. It is not known exactly what is the root cause of migraine, yet the mechanism at work is simple. The migraine begins when blood vessels in the brain contract (shrink), restricting blood flow and leading to the symptoms of visual disturbances, numbness and fatigue. After this, the vessels then dialate (widen), leading to the massive headaches that are characteristic of migraines. Often migraines are triggered by foods or events, these vary by the individual, but often include the following:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG), commonly found in processed food and commercial fast food
  • Cigarettes smoke
  • Alcohol or caffeine
  • Certain foods such as onions, chocolate, nuts, citrus and dairy products
  • Stress
  • Skipping Meals
  • Nitrates (found in bacon, hot dogs and salami)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (too much or too little)

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Treatment Options

Migraines are often treated with medication. There is no cure for migraines, but these medications may make them more manageable or less frequent. Ergot deritivatives are one possible treatment, as are Triptans such as Imitrex. Sometimes, pain reliever narcotics are prescribed in leiu of specific migraine medication. Over the counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as asprin, acetaminophen and ibuprofin are often effective in treating mild migraines. Migraine medication poses a risk to those with heart disease, as it narrows blood vessels. People who have both heart disease and migraines should be very careful and consult their doctors.

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Home Care & Natural Remedies

Non-drug options for migraines include avoiding "triggers" like cigarette smoke or certain foods, as well as stress management techniques such as exercise, yoga and tai chi. Many people find it helpful to rest in a quiet, dark room with a cool, damp cloth over their head. This will help relax the body and sooth the light and sound sensitivity that accompanies many migraines.

There are conflicting reports regarding the effacy of the herb feverfew. Studies have suggested both that it is effective in alleviating migraines, but nearly as many studies have found it no more effective than a placebo. It is best to consult a certified herbalist before attempting such a course of treatment.

Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamins B2 and B3 all improve blood flow to the brain. This may assist in preventing or relieving migraines. It is also thought that calcium and magnesium are important to brain and nerve health as well, making them both fairly important for general health, and perhaps another factor in migraine relief.

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