Migraine is a common health issue, affecting 1 in every 7 people globally, three times more common in women than men. But, what causes it? According to Dr Lakshmi Krishna V, consultant neurology at Kauvery Hospitals, Electronic City, Bengaluru, migraine is a neurological disease wherein a person experiences moderate to severe one-sided headache that may last for 4-72 hours, and is often associated with nausea,vomiting, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
“Most people with migraine will have only a few attacks per month, and 2 per cent of total cases are chronic migraine cases, wherein people may experience headache for more than 15 days a month,” she explains.
The doctor explains that an episode of migraine exhibits 4 phases: first is the prodrome phase, which happens a few hours to days before a headache. During this phase, the person will be irritable, depressed and will have increased yawning, food cravings.
Second one is the aura phase, where a person sees flashes of light in front of their eyes, sees zig-zag lines, feels numbness and tingling in the body. Migraines can occur with and without aura.
The third phase is the headache phase lasting for 4-72 hours and the fourth phase is migraine hangout phase in which the person will be generally unwell, irritable, and confused.
“In women, the frequency of migraine can increase during menstruation, possibly due to fall in the hormone levels (estrogen). In 2/3 of cases, migraine decreases during menopause. But in a few patients, it can begin after menopause,” she says.
Did you know that children also get migraines?
“For them, it is usually presented as cyclical vomiting syndrome or abdominal migraine with no headache. Colic in infants may be the earliest sign of migraine. Children with one parent suffering from migraine have 50 per cent chance of getting migraine, and if both parents are affected, then the chances are 75 per cent.”
Migraine is a benign condition, says the doctor, adding that reassurance is the first part of treatment. “Avoidance of triggers is key. It includes quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, reducing excessive caffeine, and avoiding birth control pills in women with migraines.”
Nonpharmacological therapies like deep breathing, yoga and relaxation techniques are also found to be effective in preventing migraine. “It is recommended to maintain a migraine diary to understand the correlation between triggers and onsets to improve the treatment,” the doctor concludes.