Migraine is a common health condition that can cause intensive headache and the pain can evenead to nausea and vomitting. Migraine can occur in both males and females. However, women may experience more migraine episodes than men and for very different reasons. Therefore, migraine is a female predominant disorder which normally occurs in the age group of 20-50 years. It is also seen in children but in very less frequency. So, this is the most common age group when there are patients suffering from migraine. The migraine attacks may interfere with your day to day activities and disturb your lifestyle. To understand it in detail, Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Vinny Sood, Senior Consultant - Neurology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon, about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment for migraine in women.
Causes of migraine in women
The causes of migraine haven't exactly been figured out yet. But, there are many internal and external factors that might act as a trigger for migraine symptoms. Certain disturbances in the brain can cause severe headaches. As per Dr. Vinny, there are certain triggers for migraine in women. They are:
1. Menstrual cycle
Menstrual cycle is one of the triggers for migraine. One of the reasons why migraine is getting more triggered in females is because of the menstrual cycle and hormonal changes. Due to the menstrual cycle and hormonal imbalances, you might have headaches for migraine.
2. Certain food items
Certain food items are also triggers for migraine. For example: Chocolate, spicy food, coffee, cold drinks, cheese and red wine. These foods are not good for your health and don't provide many useful nutrients to your mind and body. So, some food items can also be a trigger for migraine in women.
Another differentiation between male and female triggers is pregnancy. Just like during menstruation, there are fluctuations in estrogen and hormonal changes during pregnancy too. Therefore, pregnant women are also a risk of getting migraine episodes.
4. Family history
Family history is an important predictor of migraine. It has been observed that 85% of migraine patients are due to family history. So, if you have a family member who had migraine, you may also have a higher chance of developing it.
5. Less disciplined life
It is also important to maintain a less disciplined life. Maintaining a routine of sleep, diet and exercise also plays an important role in preventing migraine. A disturbed lifestyle is a major cause behind migraine in women too. Alcohol and caffeine intake also should be avoided.
6. Inadequate sleep
Persistent sleep deprivation for a long period of time can also be a trigger for migraine. Lack of sleep or even excess sleep can make your brain cells too tired and you tend to lose focus and control over things, which can also result in headache episodes. Therefore, one has to take proper sleep of atleast 7-8 hours daily.
The intensity of migraine might vary from being mild to advanced in different people. Migraine mostly affects a person during adolescence. The signs can get worse with time and age. According to Dr. Vinny, here are the symptoms of migraine:
- Visual aura like flashes of light near your eyes
- Vertiginous sensation
- Vertigo feeling like dizziness
- Headache starts building up and then rising to a very severe intensity
- Mood swings
- Hearing noises
- Pain in one or both sides
Stages of migraine
There are also various stages involved when we talk about migraine. However, everyone does not go through all the stages of migraine, but it may surely progress with time. The four main stages of migraine are prodrome, aura, attack and postdrome. Although, the symptoms are different in each stage. During the earlier stages, you may experience food cravings, mood swings, mild pain and constipation. While in the advanced stage, you might even get severe attacks of pain or episodes, resulting in a feeling of flushing out or nausea. The pains may even last for more than 72 hours and it should not go unreported. A lot of people leave migraine undiagnosed and untreated, which should not be the case.
Dr. Vinny Door said, "Migraine just requires a history based diagnosis. MRI and CT are normal in migraine. It is an episodic headache that occurs with certain frequency associated with nausea, vomitting, photophobia and phonophobia. Photophobia is irritation with light and phonophobia is irritation with sound. These last from 1 day to 3 days." The doctors need to rule out any other cause that may be a factor behind the headaches or any secondary cause. So, normally a person having episodic headaches, he/she needs to get the imaging done to rule out any other cause. Migraine can't be diagnosed by any other way as it is just a history based diagnosis. In certain patients of migraine, some discharges are found on the EEG.
Before starting the treatment it is important to know the triggers. After understanding the cause, the doctor can move on to controlling them. If you know the triggers, 50% of the times you are able to control the headaches. Dr. Vinny said, "Prophylactic drug is one of the drugs that reduces the sensitivity of these triggers for the headache. These are normally given for 3-6 months. This reduces the frequency of headaches, like from once in a week or once in every ten days, it decreases to once in two months or three months. During the episode of headache, you can take painkillers and certain triptans which gives immediate relief to the patient."
Lifestyle Modifications for migraine in women
There are also many lifestyle modifications that one can make to reduce the symptoms of migraine in women. Along with the medicinal treatment, one has to make certain moderations to According to Dr. Vinny, some lifestyle changes that women can make are:
1. Avoid stress
Stress can lead to triggers like disturbance in menstrual cycle and several hormonal changes. One should avoid taking unnecessary stress and anxiety. These factors can increase the risk of developing migraine episodes.
2. Take sleep for proper time
As mentioned above, both excess sleep and sleep deprivation are not good for your mind and body. Therefore, making this change and sleeping for a proper time is important to avoid the risk of migraine or to reduce the symptoms.
3. Don't do fasting
Staying hungry for too long can be harmful for your brain and body. Adapting the habit of having small portions of food from time to time is advisable for everyone. Fasting can increase headache and other symptoms of migraine too.
4. Eat proper balanced diet
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is also a helping factor for people suffering from migraine. Having healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and other nutrient packed items helps in keeping you healthy and protected from any health conditions. Avoid junk foods like chocolate, maggi, cheese, cold drinks, etc.
These self care tips can help you in coping up with migraine in women. Moreover, you just have to know the above mentioned triggers and avoid them. So, these were the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle modifications from Neurologist Dr. Vinny Sood. If you experience any one of the above mentioned symptoms, you should visit a neurologist immediately or go into the emergency room for further treatment.
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