A migraine is a neurological condition involving the brain. If a migraine is not properly diagnosed and treated, an individual may experience recurrent and severe symptoms, including extreme headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and heightened sensitivity to light and sound.

The science behind migraines is complex. Fortunately, The Migraine Institute is here to educate individuals about migraines. Let’s take a look at five common migraine questions.

1. Why do people have migraines?

It is sometimes a mystery why an individual may have a migraine. But migraines can be hereditary, meaning they can run in your family.  Studies have shown that a child with one parent who suffers from migraines has about a 50% risk of developing migraines. If both parents have a migraine diagnosis, a child’s risk of migraines increases to approximately 75%. Researchers have also found that as many as 90% of migraine sufferers have family members who also deal with migraines.

2. What environmental factors can trigger migraines?

Migraines are commonly triggered by environmental factors. These can be external factors, like certain foods or medications, or internal factors, like stress or blood sugar changes. Other environmental triggers include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Dehydration
  • Physical activity
  • Certain light patterns, loud sounds or strong smells

3. Are migraines and headaches the same thing?

All migraines are headaches, but not all headaches are migraines. Migraines refer to a category of headaches that include severe, throbbing pain, generally on one side of the head, associated with nausea, vomiting and/or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are usually diagnosed by a primary care doctor or neurologist after a detailed headache history and physical exam.

4. Is a migraine a type of stroke?

A migraine is not a stroke, but sometimes one can be misdiagnosed for the other.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to one area of the brain is interrupted, either from sudden bleeding or a vessel blockage (like a heart attack). This blood flow interruption results in decreased oxygen to brain cells and cell death. Even with emergency treatment, strokes can result in memory loss, weakness and other brain-related deficiencies.

There is evidence to suggest that migraines can be associated with changes in blood flow in the brain, but this is different than a stroke.

5. Are there sensory nerves that can trigger migraines?

There are four anatomical migraine triggers, or specific external sensory nerve regions that can set off migraines in the brain. Patients who are subject to one or more of these triggers will feel as if their headaches are coming from these specific areas.  The common trigger areas are:

  • Above the eye / forehead
  • Neck
  • Nose (felt behind the eye)
  • Temples

All of trigger sites, except for the nose, will respond to Botox as a treatment. Trigger point surgery, which involves release of these nerves, may also be a treatment option.

6. How are migraines treated?

Traditional migraine treatment involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes and alternative therapies (like acupuncture). If a migraine patient finds that traditional migraine medications are not completely effective, or cause intolerable side effects, they may be a candidate for Botox or surgery. To find out more, please call us at 310.461.0303 to schedule a consultation.

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