Migraine is a common condition characterised by “episodic attacks of head pain and associated symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light, sound, or head movement,” said Dr Jyoti Bala Sharma, Director, Neurology, Fortis Hospital Noida, adding that it is three times more common in women than in men.
She added that the symptoms may also vary with some patients not having headache as a dominant symptom. “These patients may have a primary complaint of dizziness, ear pain, ear or head fullness, sinus pressure, and even fluctuating hearing loss,” she told indianexpress.com.
What happens during a migraine attack?
Dr Sharma said that during a migraine attack, abnormal activity may occur in, on, and around the brain. “Hyperactivity occurs in the parts of the brain that control pain and other sensations. This means the person will have an exaggerated, distorted experience of the pain, motion, or sound that may be so intense that it is difficult to tolerate,” she explained.
She also said that there might be some “altered electrical activity at the surface of the brain, over the vision areas, and may result in unusual visual phenomena like the appearance of spark-like bursts, wavy lines, blind spots, or even complete visual loss in rare cases.”
“Temporary confusion, inability to speak, numbness, or even paralysis of any part of the body” are some other symptoms that may happen, but will not last more than 20 minutes.
“A migraine trigger is any environmental, dietary, or physiological factor that can provoke migraine activity in the brain,” Dr Sharma explained.
Environmental triggers may include odours, bright lights, noise, and other excessive sensory stimuli. Food such as red wine, aged cheeses, yeast in fresh bread, idli dosa and yogurt, coffee, chocolate, and the nitrates used as preservatives in many pre-packaged foods along with stress and hormonal changes can also cause migraine, she shared.
Smriti Kochar, a health expert, recently took to Instagram to share the common causes of migraine. “If the gut is inflamed, it causes your immune system to flare up and give you headaches. A lot of times, this comes from acidity problems because that can negatively affect the absorption of some key nutrients like vitamins B1, B2, B12, B6, and magnesium, causing massive headaches,” she wrote in the caption.
She also mentioned that migraines can be “caffeine and stress mediated”. “High estrogen causes migraines in women, around their periods,” she added.
She suggested that if a person has migraines, as well as hives or rashes on their body, then it might be related to “your body not being able to break down histamines” (an organic nitrogenous compound involved in local immune responses, as well as regulating physiological functions in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter for the brain, spinal cord, and uterus). One might get relief with some anti-histamine medications.
Dr Jyoti Bala Sharma told Indianexpress.com that medications may suppress the symptoms but if taken frequently they “can worsen the problem by causing rebound symptoms more intense than the original attack.”
She added that the best a person can do is identify their triggers and avoid them. However, she also said, “symptoms may be so constant even after controlling triggers giving medications to control migraine attack frequency in such cases can be helpful.”
“Keeping a simple diary may be one of the most important tools that can help in managing migraines, Dr Sharma said.
Natural foods that help
Dr Namita Nadar, Head Nutritionist, Fortis Hospital Noida, said that chemicals, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, and additives can cause headaches. “Leafy green vegetables and nuts, fruits, seeds, whole grains, legumes, hot peppers, and fatty fish can be consumed to soothe headaches and manage migraine,” she said.