Migraine headaches seem to be caused in part by changes in the level of a body chemical called serotonin.
Serotonin plays many roles in the body and it can have an effect on blood vessels. When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels constrict (shrink).
When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels dilate (swell). This swelling can cause pain or other problems. Many things can affect the level of serotonin in your body, including your blood sugar level, certain foods and hormone levels in women.
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Symptoms of migraines
Intense throbbing or dull aching pain, usually on one side of your head
Changes in how you see, including blurred vision or blind spots in your vision
Bothered by light, noise and odours
Feeling cold or sweating
Still or tender neck
Symptoms worsen with movement
Are there different kinds of migraine headaches?
Yes. The two most common are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraines with aura or classic migraines start with a set of warning signs are called the aura.
The aura often involves changes in the way you see. You may see flashing lights. You may temporarily lose some of your vision, such as your side vision, in one or both eyes.
You may also feel a strange prickly or burning sensation or muscle weakness on one side of your body. These sensations may seem to march through your body. You may also have trouble communicating. The aura may also involve feelings of depression, irritability and restlessness.
Auras last about 15 to 30 minutes. Head pain usually follows the aura, though sometimes the two overlap or the head pain never occurs. The head pain of migraines with aura may occur on one or both sides of your head.
Migraines without aura or common migraines don't start with an aura.
Migraines without aura may start more slowly than migraines with aura, last longer and interfere more with daily activities. The pain of migraines without aura may be on just one side of your head. If you have severe headaches without an aura that don't seem to be caused by muscle tension, they may be migraines without aura.
Certain things can set off migraines in some people. Foods that contain tyramine, sodium nitrite or phenylalanine (see above) can lead to migraines. Other things that may also contribute to migraines include the following:
Strong odors, perfumes, bright light or loud noises
Changes in Weather or altitude
Being really tired, stressed or depressed or the let-down after an intense or stressful event
Changes in sleeping patterns or sleeping time, especially sleeping late or sleeping less or longer than usual
Missing meals or fasting
Menstrual periods, birth control pills or hormones for some women
Medications including analgesics
Foods that may trigger migraines
Aged, canned, cured or processed meat, including bologna, game, ham, herring, hot dogs, pepperoni and sausage.
Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
Beans, including pole, broad, lima, Italian, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans
Brewer's yeast, including fresh yeast coffee cake, donuts and sourdough bread
Caffeine in excess
Canned soup or bouillon cubes
Caffeine-containing foods and drinks
Chocolate, cocoa and carob
Cultured dairy products, such as buttermilk and sour cream
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Nuts and peanut butter
Onions, except small amounts for flavoring
Pickled, preserved or marinated foods, such as olives and pickles, and some snack foods
Lie down in a dark, quiet room
Put a cold compress on your forehead
Massage your scalp
Put pressure on your temples
If you have suggestions or know of a proven home remedy add it here in the comment area.
Feverfew for migraine relief & prevention.
Passioflower has been used since the 19th century for nervous conditions. Modern research supports traditional usage and clinical trials have demonstrated the relaxing and anti-anxiety effects of Passiflora.
If you have suggestions or know of a proven herbal remedy add it here in the comment area.
Avoid triggers. If certain foods seem to have triggered your headaches in the past, eat something else. If certain scents are a problem, try to avoid them. In general, establish a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals. In addition, try to control stress.
Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. If your doctor agrees, choose any aerobic exercise you enjoy, including walking, swimming and cycling. Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.
Reduce the effects of estrogen. If you're a woman with migraines and estrogen seems to trigger or make your headaches worse, you may want to avoid or reduce the amount of medications you take that contain estrogen. These medications include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Talk with your doctor about the best alternatives or dosages for you.
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