Migraines are a lot more than just headaches. They can be described as a painful headache accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, numbness and visual disturbances. The condition affects more women than men.
A study conducted by the researchers of the Harvard Medical School suggested that sex differences in the brain structure of men and women make women more prone to the throbbing pain. In a study done on 44 men and women, researchers found that the intensity of migraine does not differentiate between men and women, however, migraine caused headache is more severe in women than men.
The exact cause of migraine is not fully understood. The following are the possible reasons for migraines in women.
Women, more than men, are more likely to be juggling work, family and social responsibilities. Stress is therefore a key migraine trigger, making women succumb to migraine during the prone ages of 20 to 45. Moreover, women are more likely to get migraines during their peak reproductive years because of the high stress level.
Studies have established that more than half of all migraines experienced by women happen during their menstrual cycle, although the exact connection between the two remains unclear. Just before a woman’s menstrual cycle begins, the levels of the female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) fall steeply. This may be the reason to evoke a migraine as oestrogen plays a role in the brain chemicals that regulate pain.
Medications, particularly hormonal medications, may trigger migraines. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may increase the frequency of migraine attacks in women.
Foods that are high in salt or are processed may cause a migraine attack. Fasting or skipping meals is another trigger of this debilitating condition. Food additives and preservatives (sweetener aspartame, monosodium glutamate) may aggravate migraines. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can be the reasons to trigger migraines. This is why doctors emphasise on tracking foods that migraine triggers.
Intense physical exertion, including sexual activity, can provoke migraines. Sun glare, loud sound and bright lights may induce migraines.
Changes in circadian rhythm, disturbed wake-sleep pattern, jet lags and changes in barometric pressure may trigger migraines in some women. If you are at greater risk, you must get enough sleep, but don't oversleep. Get a good night’s sleep- eight hours a day.
Self-care is one of the best approaches to cope with migraine. The following may help ease the pain of a migraine headache.
Keep your headache diary - Migraine patients must keep a headache diary. Continue maintaining your headache diary even after you see your doctor which will help you learn more about what triggers your migraines and how can you keep the condition under control.
Relaxation exercises - Muscle relaxation exercises and yoga may help ease the pain of a migraine headache.
Rest and relax - When you feel a headache coming on, you need to rest in a quiet place. You can also place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck and apply gentle pressure to painful areas on your scalp for relief.
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