Migraine: symptoms, causes and treatment

Migraine: symptoms, causes and treatment

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Migraine is a common neurological disorder that causes a severe and insistent headache, usually on one of the two sides of it, along with other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, in addition to nausea and vomiting. A third of those affected also usually perceive auras before each outbreak.

Migraine is a very common disease that affects approximately one in five women and one in fifteen men. The first outbreaks usually appear at an early age, usually before the age of 30. A migraine attack can cause very significant pain for hours or even days that disables those affected when it comes to leading their normal lives.


  • 1 What are the causes of migraine?
  • 2 Symptoms of migraine
  • 3 Phases of migraine
  • 4 Treatment

What are the causes of migraine?

The exact causes of migraines are still unknown, although there are theories that point to the result of changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a main route of pain. In addition, there is talk that certain brain chemical imbalances including serotonin, which decreases during attacks, may be involved.

There are also theories that state that changes in the dilation of the blood vessels of the meninges They may be related to attacks. It seems that genetics play a clear role in the propensity to experience this disease. While it has not yet been discovered which exact genes are the ones that influence.

The beginnings of crises generally relate to contextual triggers. These, when consistent over time, can be an indicator of the development of a crisis. These factors can be of different types:

  • Hormonal: especially in women around the menstrual period.
  • Emotional: such as stress, anxiety or excitement.
  • Physicists: such as tiredness, lack of sleep, hypoglycemia or poor posture, among others.
  • Dietetics: for a poor or irregular diet, for lack of hydration, caffeine consumption or specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits or cheese.
  • Environmental: such as bright lights, tobacco smoke, flickering screens, strong odors or sudden atmospheric changes.

Symptoms of migraine

The main symptom of migraine is normally an intense and stabbing headache on one of the two sides of it, although sometimes you can feel on both sides. Pain is usually a throbbing sensation that worsens with movement and prevents people from carrying out their lives normally, lasting between four hours to three days.

Other symptoms that appear with migraine are usually nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to sound and light, so when an outbreak arises people usually need to rest in a dark and quiet room. Symptoms such as perspiration, lack of concentration, feeling of cold or heat, tummy ache and diarrhea may occasionally occur.

Phases of migraine

Migraine usually develops in four different stages, although not all who suffer from it necessarily go through all of them.

  • Prodromes: 80% of migraine patients go through this phase that usually appears hours or days before the attack. It is characterized by changes in mood, energy levels, attention and appetite, with a great need to eat sweet products.
  • Aura: One in four migraine patients presents these temporary warning symptoms, in the so-called aura phase. The aura usually lasts between five minutes and an hour. It can occur through various symptoms, the visuals being the most common:
    • Visual: Visual problems appear such as perceiving flashing lights, zigzag patterns and commonly blind spots accompanied by certain light flashes.
    • Sensitive: Tingling and numbness, as if small needles were noticed, usually in one hand and that go up the arm until it affects the face, lips and tongue.
    • Of language: Difficulty speaking even when the person knows what he means. There may also be difficulty understanding what is heard.
    • Motorboat: It is rare and includes symptoms such as partial or total paralysis of the body and even loss of consciousness.
  • Pain phase: It's about the attack itself. This phase is when the pulsatile pain appears on one or both sides of the head, usually accompanied by the aforementioned symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and photosensitivity, which can last between 4 to 72 hours.
  • Poster and recovery: In the last phase after the attack, the person may feel tired and deconcentrated. Some describe this phase as "feeling like a zombie" or as if they had a hangover. These sensations are often attributed to medications that are used to combat it, but they can be perfectly caused by the migraine itself.


Although there is no treatment that currently cures migraine, attacks can be prevented, as well as relieving symptoms. Among the prevention treatments are the behavioral therapies These therapies are found aimed at changing the patient's lifestyle. Its goal is to reduce stress, bring good sleep patterns, drink plenty of water, regular exercise and avoid certain foods.

Medication by prescription is also usually used. One of the goals is to treat pain in the attack with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen and ibuprofen), triptans or ergotamines. It also seeks to prevent attacks when they occur more than twice a week in which medications are prescribed as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers. There are other treatments that are being investigated such as surgery.

Migraines are usually well diagnosed and treated. If you normally experience or have experienced the symptoms mentioned above, do not hesitate to see your doctor to treat them.