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What to know about migraines

John Okoro (not real name) woke up in the morning and started feeling a burning sensation in his head. This was followed with a painful headache, dumbness and vomiting. He did not know what he was passing through until he visited a hospital where he was diagnosed with migraine.

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Like Okoro, many people suffer from migraine without knowing. However, some people experience warning signs or symptoms.

Migraines cause painful headaches which are most times accompanied by sensory signs and other symptoms; they are a group of neurological symptoms that typically include severe throbbing headache, usually on one side of the head. They can also occur on both sides of the head and are often accompanied with nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

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An untreated migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours and its frequency varies from person to person.

Medical experts do not fully understand the cause of migraine. However, some of them think that it may be caused by changes in the chemicals in the brain which cause inflammation.

A consultant physician in Port Harcourt, Dr. Emenike Nkwo, said migraines were severe, recurring and painful headaches.

Dr. Nkwo said some likely triggers of migraine were stress, food sensitivity, menstruation and the onset of menopause. He said most patients would feel better and get a bit relieved if they lay down and avoided rays of light.

He said many people with migraine could prevent full blown attacks by recognising and acting on warning symptoms known as aura. He said they may occur before or with the headache.

Experts at a clinic in Port Harcourt, Mayo Clinic, said migraines often began in childhood and extended into adolescence or early adulthood.

They said migraines might progress through four stages: pro-drome, aura, headache and post-drome.

The experts also said one or two days before a migraine, the patient might notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine such as constipation, mood change, food craving, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination and frequent yawning.

Some lifestyle changes that help reduce the frequency of migraines are drinking plenty of water, reducing stress, regular physical exercise, avoiding certain foods, getting enough sleep, among others.

The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) says, “There is no cure for migraine for now.”

It said that at the moment, migraine treatments are aimed at reducing headache frequency and stopping individual headaches when they occur. Some migraines can be avoided by simply eliminating certain food and drink from one’s diet or taking a certain medication. Others are harder to treat and may require a combination of traditional and non-traditional approaches.

The foundation said preventive treatments are designed to reduce headache frequency, and may include avoidance of migraine triggers, medications, physical therapies and behavioral therapies. “Abortive treatments measures are taken when a patient has an existing headache, and include over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications,” it said.

Symptoms

-The main symptom is intense headache on one side of the head. Sometimes it could affect both sides of your head, neck and face.

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Sensitivity to light and sound which may affect your normal activities.

Others include:

• Sweating

• Poor concentration,

• Feeling hot or cold

• Abdominal pain

•  Some people may experience other symptoms without a headache.

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