Migraines – Causes and Symptoms

What is migraine
Migraine Headache

The symptoms of a migraine headache may be confusing to you, but this article tries to explain what a migraine headache is, the symptoms of a migraine headache, and the treatment regimen.


History has it that a Migraine is one the oldest illnesses known, and has existed since way back 1200 B.C in ancient Egypt.

The great Hippocrates in 400 B.C has attributed it to visual disturbances called Aura.

A migraine is derived from a Latin word “hemicrania” which means ‘half skull’. This term was initially used to describe the pain felt over one side of the head by Galenus of Pergamon.

He also suggested that the pain originated in the meninges and vasculature of the head.

Furthermore, he said that there is a connection between the stomach and the brain because of the vomiting that is associated with migraines.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a neurological condition that can cause multiple symptoms. It’s frequently characterized by intense, debilitating headaches.

Migraines can begin in childhood or may not occur until your early adulthood.

Women are more likely than men to have migraines. Family history is one of the most common risk factors for you having migraines.

Signs and Symptoms

You may begin to experience the symptoms of a migraine headache in one to two days before a headache.

This is known as the prodrome stage. The Prodrome symptoms include:

  • food cravings
  • depression
  • fatigue or low energy
  • frequent yawning
  • hyperactivity
  • irritability
  • neck stiffness

In a migraine with aura, the aura occurs after the prodrome stage. During an aura, you may have problems, such problems may include;

  • difficulty speaking clearly
  • feeling a tingling sensation in your face, arms, or legs
  • seeing light flashes, or bright spots
  • temporarily losing your vision

The next phase is known as the attack phase. This is the most acute or severe of the phases when the actual migraine pain occurs.

You may experience these pains during an aura. Attack phase symptoms can last anywhere from hours to days.

The symptoms of a migraine headache can vary from person to person. Some symptoms may include:

  • increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • nausea
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • pain on one side of your head, either on the left side, right side, front, or back, or in your temples
  • pulsing and throbbing head pain
  • vomiting

After the attack phase, you will often experience the postdrome phase. During this phase, symptoms you will experience include:

  • Changes in your mood and feelings (euphoric and extremely happy to feeling very fatigued and apathetic)
  • A mild, dull headache that persists.

The length and intensity of these phases can occur differently in different people.

Sometimes, a phase is skipped and it’s possible that a migraine attack occurs without causing a headache.

Pains Associated With Migraines

These pains as described by patients may be;

  • pounding
  • debilitating
  • pulsating
  • throbbing
  • perforating

Some may occur as severe dull, steady ache. The pain starts out as mild if untreated will become moderate to severe.

Migraine pain most commonly affects the forehead area. It’s usually on one side of the head, but it can occur on both sides or shift.

Most migraines last about 4 hours. If they’re not treated or don’t respond to treatment, they can last for as long as 72 hours to a week.

In migraines with aura, pain may overlap with an aura or may never occur at all.

Nausea Associated With Migraines

About 50% of people who get migraines have nausea as a symptom. These symptoms usually start about one hour after a headache starts.

Nausea and vomiting can be as troubling as a headache itself. If you only have nausea, you may be able to take your usual migraine medications.

Vomiting, though, can prevent you from being able to take pills or keep them in your body long enough to be absorbed.

Hence treating and preventing these symptoms of a migraine headache is crucial, because if migraine medication is delayed, your migraine is likely to become more severe.

You might also like this>> Types, diagnosis, treatments and prevention of migraine

Treating nausea and preventing vomiting

If you have nausea without vomiting, your doctor may suggest medication to ease nausea called anti-nausea or antiemetic drugs.

In this case, the antiemetic can help prevent vomiting and improve nausea.

If nausea and vomiting occur together, the physicians prefer to ease those symptoms by treating the migraine itself.

If your migraines come with significant nausea and vomiting, you and your physician may talk about starting preventive (prophylactic) medications.

 Causes of Migraines

Studies haven’t identified a definitive cause for migraines. However, it found some contributing factors that can trigger the condition.

This includes changes in brain chemicals, such as a decrease in levels of the brain chemical serotonin.

Other factors that may trigger a migraine include:

  • bright lights
  • severe heat, or other extremes in weather
  • dehydration
  • changes in barometric pressure
  • hormone changes in women, such as estrogen and progesterone fluctuations during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
  • excess stress
  • loud sounds
  • intense physical activity
  • skipping meals
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • use of certain medications, such as oral contraceptives or nitroglycerin
  • unusual smells
  • certain foods e.g alcohol or caffeinated drinks, food additives, such as nitrates (a preservative in cured meats), aspartame (an artificial sugar), or monosodium glutamate (MSG), tyramine, which occurs naturally in some foods
  • smoking
  • alcohol use
  • traveling

The symptoms of a migraine headache should not be underrated, if you experience a migraine, go see your doctor.

Your doctor may ask you to keep a headache diary. Writing down what you were doing, what foods you ate, and what medications you were taking before your migraine began can help identify your triggers.


Leave a Comment