Your Body

Migraine – the thunderstorm in your head

 

We owe one of the most powerful works in music history to migraine: in his opera "Siegfried" Richard Wagner staged a severe migraine attack with hammering timpani and nervous violin screams. Even though we know more about the agonizing head thunderstorm today than we did in Wagner's day, many questions remain unanswered. In the meantime, however, there are proven methods for relief and prevention. Like Richard Wagner, the great composer who suffered from "nervous headaches" throughout his life, many people suffer at least once in their lives, women more often than men. The unbearable boom most frequently attacks those affected between the ages of 25 and 35. But children can also suffer from migraines.

Tracking down the causes

What actually happens during a migraine? And how does the violent thunderstorm in the head come about? It is only recently that researchers have been able to track down this widespread disease. They assume that nerve cells in the brain become excessively active. As a result, certain messenger substances, including serotonin, are released too quickly into the blood vessels: they become inflamed and each pulse leads to severe pain. The overzealous nerves probably lie in the family: recent studies indicate a genetic predisposition for migraine. The researchers are certain that the instigators of the nerve salvos, the so-called triggers, can be different for each person affected. Stress, stress-related sleep deprivation, alcohol, hormonal changes (e.g. shortly before menstruation) and sensory overload are often the culprits. Migraine sufferers who want to avoid the agonizing attacks should therefore know their personal triggers and avoid them. Moderate endurance sports such as jogging, swimming or cycling have proven to be good strategies against migraine attacks. Relaxation exercises and a regular lifestyle with regular bed and standing times can also counteract migraines. In general, a decelerated daily routine can make migraine patients less susceptible to attacks.

Every migraine is different

The individual symptoms that plague the affected person can vary greatly from case to case. This makes the diagnosis more difficult, especially as there is no test to clearly prove migraine. Doctors can only rely on what the patient describes. In order to be able to provide as detailed information as possible, it is therefore advisable to keep a diary of the patient's symptoms for a while if migraine is suspected. A migraine traditionally occurs in four phases. However, they do not necessarily have to occur with every patient and every seizure and can also last for different lengths of time.

Phase 1
Irritation, fatigue, concentration problems or sensitivity to light and noise often announce a migraine several hours or even days before.

Phase 2
Immediately before the attack, visual perception disorders, tingling, paralysis and dizziness may occur in some cases. Such an aura usually lasts a maximum of one hour.

Phase 3
Then the actual attack, the so-called headache phase, begins. Every noise, every ray of light hurts, every movement becomes torture; smells that are otherwise barely perceived cause nausea. A migraine attack puts the affected person out of action for at least one, often up to three days.

Phase 4
After the pain has subsided, those affected feel tired and exhausted. Up to 24 hours usually elapse before complete recovery.



 

What should I do if I have a migraine attack?

If the migraine attacks the affected person, usually only one thing helps: to retreat into a darkened room, to sleep and to relieve the unbearable hammering with painkillers. Appropriate medicines (antiemetics) help against nausea. Triptans have proven their worth in severe seizures. They intervene directly in the metabolism and constrict the blood vessels. Their effect is most reliable if they are taken early in an attack.

6 tips for preventing migraines

1. maintain a regular sleep-wake rhythm - even at weekends
2. avoid your personal migraine triggers
3. avoid sauna visits
4. exercise moderately
5. reduce your stress level
6. take a break more often and enjoy more

Migraine and female cycle

Before menstruation, the level of the hormone estrogen in the blood decreases. This can also cause migraines. This is called "menstrual migraine". It occurs in 14 percent of migraine sufferers.

Migraine in children

Migraine is often not recognised in children and is therefore treated incorrectly because it is different from adult migraine. Typical symptoms are nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting, sometimes without headaches. The attacks are shorter than in adults, but last at least one day.

 

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