What is migraine?

Migraine (Greek words- hemi, meaning half, and kranion, meaning skull) is a debilitating condition characterized by moderate to severe headaches, and nausea. Migraine is the most common of primary headaches. It is about three times more common in women than in men. Approximately, one in six people suffer from this disorder. Most sufferers have their first attack between their early teens and the age of forty. Children are also susceptible to migraine, though often they do not suffer in the same manner as adults. Until puberty, migraine is about equally common among boys and girls. After puberty, it becomes almost three times more common among females.

Do I have migraine?

You may be having migraine headaches if you are having:

  1. Episodes of headache which generally start as severe throbbing headache starting on one side of the head and later become generalized.
  2. Headaches last for 4-72 hours if not treated.
  3. Headache is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
  4. There may be discomfort with light and sound.

Prior to migraine attacks, one may have excessive yawning, strange smell sensation, nausea or non-specific discomfort.  Attacks tend to vary in their severity and presentation in the same individual, as well as from individual to individual. In some individuals, headaches may be preceded by disturbed vision like zig-zag lines, curtain like progressive darkness for few minutes or ‘pins and needles’ in the limbs. Dizziness and neck pain are also felt by some people.

Why does migraine occur?

Migraine is a due to a vulnerability of the brain caused by an electrical and chemical instability of certain key brain centers that regulate blood vessels around the head and neck and control the flow of pain messages into the brain. This susceptibility to migraine is largely genetic.

What may trigger migraine headache?

Migraine triggers vary from person to person. Some common triggers are:


Lack of sleep

Fasting or hunger

Routine changes

Hormonal factors, like menstrual periods

Strong odour(s), like perfume, diesel, etc

Loud noise

Sunlight or bright light

Weather changes

Food related- like alcohol, paneer, monosodium glutamate (found in Chinese food), chocolate, caffeine-overuse/withdrawal.

Should I avoid all possible trigger of migraine?

Although the list of possible trigger factors is extensive, It is wise to try to determine those that influence your own attacks, and avoid them.

Does having migraine mean that I have a mental imbalance?

Absolutely not. Migraine occurs in all social groups, no matter what race, personality-type, or I.Q. level. Also the fact that more women are affected by migraine than men is purely the result of hormonal factors, and does not imply that women are psychologically more prone to migraine than men.

Do people with migraine have risk of having paralysis?

Although the migraine symptoms of speech and visual disturbances may mimic the symptoms of a paralysis (stroke), in fact, strokes in association with migraines are extremely rare, and are usually seen in people who have other major risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and hypertension.

Does my brain function normally during an attack?

A great deal is happening in the brain during a migraine, which can be frightening for the sufferer. But rest assured the changes return to normal after the migraine has finished.

Can I pass migraine on to my children?

Between 40% and 60% of migraine sufferers have a family history of the condition; therefore the likelihood of passing it on to your family cannot be dismissed.

Can migraine be treated?

Migraine can be controlled significantly with drugs. A Neurologist is especially trained in treating migraine and other chronic headaches. It is important to consult your Neurologist as early as possible to seek relief.

Does migraine have anything to do with cervical spondylosis?

Usually not. Sometimes, dizziness and neck pain of migraine is wrongly attributed to neck spondylosis. An effective migraine treatment will relieve you of neck pains and dizziness besides controlling headaches.

How long do I have to take medications?

For acute and infrequent attacks, treatment is usually for few days to weeks. For frequent migraine headaches, a six to twelve months long treatment is advised for effective control.

Do Yoga or relaxation techniques help in controlling headaches?

Some people do get benefitted by Yoga and relaxation techniques.

What more can you do to deal with your migraine headache?

Some self-help measures that will be useful are:

  1. Follow a routine: Migraine sufferers may benefit through the simple maintenance of a regular daily routine, with regularly scheduled meals, bedtime and awakening times.
  2. Trigger Control: Dealing with the triggers which are within your control.
  3. Keeping a Headache Diary: Keep a diary and record each attack.
  4. Consulting your Doctor: It is very important that you see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis of migraine, as there are some headaches that can mimic migraine.
  5. Follow treatment schedule and regular follow-up.
  6. Avoid self-medication.

World Health Organization’s report on Migraine:

Times of India, 5th May 2011

Don’t neglect headache: WHO

Kounteya Sinha TNN

New Delhi: Three in every four adults, aged 18 to 65, suffered from some form of headache disorder, including migraine and tensiontype headaches, last year.
The WHO says headaches are the most common health disorders across the world, but they are often neglected and under-treated. According to the world’s first “Atlas of Headache Disorders 2011” brought out by the WHO, 50% suffering from headaches opt for self-medication, oblivious to bouts of pain.
Neurologists examine only 10% headache patients, and the rate is even lower in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The report says, over 10% of those suffering frequent headaches have migraine, and 1.7% to 4% of the adult population is affected by headache for 15 or more days every month. Information on the societal impact of headache exists in only 18% of countries that responded for the report. Three types of headache disorders have been underlined as most frequent — migraine, tensiontype and those caused by medication-overuse.
Globally, migraine is the cause of 1.3% of all years of life lost to disability. However, the tension-type headache is the more prevalent disorder. Consultations for migraine vary between 20% (of all headache consultations) in low-income countries to 32% in high-income ones. Instruments to assess impact of headache are used routinely in only 24% of the countries that responded, and insignificant in lower-middle or lowincome countries like India.
“Headache disorders are ubiquitous, prevalent, disabling and largely treatable, but under-recognized, under-diagnosed and undertreated. Illness that could be relieved is not, and burdens, both individual and society, persist. Healthcare for headache must be improved, and education is required at multiple levels to achieve this,” the report said.
In India, over 10 crore people suffer from migraine, many of whom experience their first attack in childhood. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraine and about 4% of people, who are over 65 years, suffer from migraines.


Headache Dr Manish Sinha, DM Neurology, Panchkula Chandigarh
A WHO report says over 10% of those suffering frequent headaches have migraine and 1.7%– 4% of the adult population is affected by headache for over 15 days every month


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