Migraines are a severe and painful form of headache that often recurs. If you have ever suffered a migraine before, you know how debilitating it can be. It can force you to miss work or withdraw from normal activities for hours and sometimes for days at a time.
Anyone who has ever suffered from a migraine knows that it is not a typical headache by any description. Some migraines are accompanied by an aura, which combines intense headache pain with other sensory disturbances including nausea, vomiting, numbness, and weakness.
A migraine can progress through four distinct stages, though not everybody who has migraines will experience all of them. The stages are:
1. Prodome: The prodome phase may begin one or two days before the headache sets in. Symptoms can include severe mood swings, neck stiffness, increased thirst, persistent need to urinate, yawning more than usual, and constipation.
2. Aura: Auras are symptomatic of nervous system disruption manifested in visual disturbances such as tunnel vision, zigzag or wavy vision, light flashes, spirals or sparkles and, occasionally, temporary blindness. Nausea, vomiting, pins and needles in arms or legs, weakness on one side of the body or the face, auditory hallucinations (hearing things), and muscles tics or twitches can also occur.
3. Headache: During the attack, you may feel intense throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of your head, sensitivity to light, smell, and touch, weakness or lightheadedness, and blurry vision.
4. Post-drome: The final phase of a migraine usually makes people feel fatigued, drained or confused. You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded, although some people report feeling euphoric. You may continue to experience sensitivity to light, sound, and smell.
What causes migraines?
Migraines are a relatively common complaint. It is estimated that about 13 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 55 suffer from migraines. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraines. Migraines generally peak in your 30s.
While the exact cause of migraines is still unknown, there is research to support the idea that a person’s genetic makeup can make them more susceptible to certain migraine triggers.
Other possible causes could include a chemical imbalance in the brain, specifically serotonin, which aids in regulating pain messages between the CNS and the brain. Serotonin levels plummet during a migraine attack, triggering a nerve response that causes pain. For some, medications that regulate serotonin can be prophylactic.
What are your triggers?
Some people are more prone to migraines than others for a range of reasons. It is important to understand what triggers your migraines so that you can do your best to avoid them. Keeping a diary to make note of these triggers as it may help you manage your condition.
If you can determine what your triggers might be, it may help you a great deal. If you have just started having severe headaches, be aware of things like environmental factors (smells, scents), temperature, specific foods you eat or drink, medications you take or any stress factors that precede an episode.
Some of these triggers can include:
· Hormonal changes: Women may experience migraines during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause.
· Hormone medications: Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can trigger migraines or make them worse. However, some women find that these medications help reduce the incidence of migraines.
· Food and drink: Processed foods, yeast, salt, fermented foods (including alcohol), and caffeinated food and drinks (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) may cause migraines.
· Food additives: MSG, artificial sweeteners, and various preservatives or chemical ingredients can be a migraine trigger.
· Fasting: Skipping meals or fasting can be a migraine trigger.
· Stress: Physical and mental stress of any kind can precede a migraine attack.
· Over-exertion: Running, weight training, and even intense sexual activity.
· Smells: scents can trigger migraines for some, though this is often related to an allergic reaction.
· Weather: sudden changes in barometric pressure can be a migraine trigger.
· Medications: certain types of medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, can cause migraines. Vasodilators especially, including nitroglycerin (taken for angina pain) can be a trigger, as can oral contraceptives.
While not everybody will experience migraines as a result of these circumstances, they could be a trigger for you. Once you understand what brings on your migraines, it will be easier to take steps to either mitigate or avoid them altogether.
Migraine solutions: tips to help you cope
When you feel you have a migraine coming on, do not hesitate. If you have been prescribed medication for migraines, you should take it as soon as you notice the first sign. If caught early, you may be able to lessen the pain and duration with over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin (ASA).
See a migraine specialist
If you have frequent and/or severe migraines, you should see a specialist right away. Affinity Neurocare is a neurologic migraine specialist in Frisco, TX, and we can help. We will work closely with you to determine the causes of your migraines and craft a treatment plan to help you cope.
Finding an epilepsy doctor in Frisco, Texas, can be challenging. Your family doctor may not be well-versed in caring for such a condition and it is imperative, if you or a loved one suffers from any kind of seizure disorder, that you are under the care of a specialist who can offer the best possible solutions.
More than 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with some type of seizure disorder every single year. Cases range from mild to severe and even debilitating, but regardless of the severity or frequency, not being treated for your seizures can lead to serious consequences.
Diagnosing your seizures
Many things can trigger seizures. Some are temporary conditions that arise as a result of external stressors, such as severe allergies or an adverse reaction to a drug or an environmental circumstance. In other cases, they can be caused by brain trauma suffered in an accident, an infection, a tumor, or nerve damage that arises from another condition.
Regardless of the cause, it is extremely important to get an accurate diagnosis before embarking on any course of treatment. In some cases, it will be relatively easy to pinpoint the cause of your seizures, but in others, it may require a series of tests to arrive at a conclusion.
We begin by meeting with you to discuss your seizures. This helps us categorize the type and severity of the episodes and will direct us in developing a plan. This will include a complete neurological workup, where we look at your motor abilities and mental function to see if there is a disconnect between your brain and your nervous system.
Next, we will perform an electroencephalograph (EEG), during which we attach electrodes to your scalp to record the electrical activity in your brain. There are different types of EEGs; some are performed awake and some a combination of awake/asleep. If it is the latter, you may have to stay overnight in a hospital.
CT Scans are also a common diagnostic tool for seizures. This will help us rule out certain causes, like tumors and bleeding.
Blood tests can also tell us a lot about your seizures, especially when the cause is a genetic anomaly or an infection. We may also perform a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) if we need to narrow down a specific type of infection.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may show tissue damage in the brain. If this is present, it could be the cause of your seizures.
A PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) requires an injection of radioactive dye, which highlights areas of your brain where a change in normal chemistry is present.
A SPECT test (Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography) also uses radioactive material and is used to determine what part of the brain your seizures are coming from.
We use one or more of these tests to narrow down the root cause of your seizures so that we may more accurately plan a course of treatment for you. As each patient’s circumstances are completely different, we take a personalized approach to each case. This ensures you are getting care that is tailored specifically for you and your unique situation.
Types of seizure treatments
While epilepsy is often treated with seizure medication, in some cases, the seizure is an isolated incident that may not happen again. In that case, such as if the seizure is caused by an allergic reaction or from infection, removing the cause is the best course of action and ongoing treatment with seizure medication is unnecessary.
Determining the cause of your seizure is key, as we don’t automatically prescribe medication if it is not needed.
The ultimate goal is to control the episodes and minimize the possible side-effects from seizure medication. If your doctor determines that you require seizure medications, we will monitor you closely to be sure you are doing well. We will also look at other medications you may be taking to ensure that there is no potential for harmful drug interactions.
There are other forms of treatment for seizures, some surgical. We always start with the least invasive option and proceed from there. In severe cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove some brain tissue from the area where the seizures are originating.
Implants can also be considered and have been highly successful in some cases. Some types of implants deliver deep brain stimulation or vagus nerve stimulation while others control the electrical impulses in the brain that lead to a seizure. As each case is so very different, we will always work hard to determine the type of treatment that will be best suited for you.
In conclusion, if you are having seizures and you either don’t know the cause or are not receiving adequate treatment, you need to see a specialist immediately.
If you live in Frisco, Texas, or surrounding areas, Affinity Neurocare offers seizure treatments that leverage the latest research and technology to ensure your wellbeing.
Call today to schedule an assessment or to learn more about how we can help.
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