Most of us, at one time or another, have had a headache. An ache or pain, which might be sharp or dull, concentrated in the forehead and occasionally the back of the head. But a migraine headache is much more severe. Described as a severe throbbing, usually located on one side of the head. Any light or sound makes it worse, and the terrible aching may be accompanied by nausea. The excruciating pain is almost unbearable and the slightest movement only intensifies the pain. Some people even have visual symptoms such as flashing lights or an aura, as well. If you suffer from migraine headaches, you are not alone. Twenty-eight million Americans suffer from the debilitating pain of these headaches. Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines.
However, there is hope for effective relief, as medications are being developed to ease the pain and discomfort. The first step is getting a correct diagnosis. If you think you suffer from migraines, talk to your physician and inquire about the latest in migraine medications. Unfortunately, only about half of migraine sufferers are diagnosed, and even less receives proper treatment, according to the American Migraine Study II.
Although young boys experience more migraines than girls prior to puberty, past the age of 11 girls begin to have the majority of migraine headaches. This increase in the incidence of migraines in girls over boys continues to escalate until adulthood when women suffer migraine headaches 3 to 1 over men.
There is significant evidence that there may be a connection between migraines and fluctuations in estrogen levels in women. The problem appears to be the response of the central nervous system to normal hormonal fluctuations. While these hormonal fluctuations are normal, it is the central nervous system’s response that is faulty.
During our teen years, changes in hormones, especially the onset of menstruation, might signal the first sign of a migraine headache. The highest incidence of migraine occurs in women around the age of 40 prior to menopause. Fortunately, for most women, aging and menopause often reduces the frequency of migraines.
Although, headaches are common at the time of menstruation, not all of these headaches can be classified as migraine. Menstrual migraines occur, usually without aura, and are headaches that occur only during the period of 2 days before and 2 days after the onset of menstruation. They occur most frequently on the first day of your period, while premenstrual syndrome (PMS) related headaches usually end with the onset of menstruation.
Women who use oral contraceptives may be surprised to learn that these may actually be a trigger for a migraine. Some women find their migraines are alleviated after starting oral contraceptives, while others claim their migraine attacks have gotten worse and are associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Talk with a doctor and ask about medications and nutrition. What you eat and drink can also trigger a migraine and your physician may be able to give you a list of foods to put on your watch list. Although not everyone is sensitive to the same foods, those that have a reputation of causing migraines should be eaten with caution.
To help with your migraines, maintain an exercise program, designed for women, that includes strength training and aerobics. Remember, it takes as little as 30 minutes a day to keep your body fit and healthy. Please be sure to inquire with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
~ Karen Ficarelli
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