It is estimated that nearly 30 million people in the United States suffer from migraines, with women four times more likely to experience them than men. This increase in incidence can be attributed to the fluctuations of hormone levels that women experience throughout their lives. The onset of migraines usually occurs during puberty and disappears right after menopause.
A migraine is an intense throbbing or pulsating occurring on one side of the head, yet sometimes may occur on both sides. Nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light can also be present. The duration of a migraine is usually 4 and up to 72 hours. Most individuals experiencing a migraine just want to find a dark and quiet place to rest.
Migraines progress through four different stages, however, many individuals do not experience all of these stages. The first stage is called Prodrome, which may occur days before, indicating an impending migraine. This stage is characterized by mood changes (depression, irritability, hyperactivity), fatigue, muscle tension, neck stiffness, and food cravings.
The second stage is only experienced by about a third of people who suffer from migraines. This stage is called the migraine aura and can occur prior or during the attack. This stage primarily affects the nervous system with vision, speech, and motor skills being impaired. These symptoms develop gradually, lasting from 20 to 60 minutes and may include: flashes of light, blind spots, vision loss, and pins and needles in arms and/or legs.
The third stage is the actual migraine pain itself. This is the stage of the migraine that can last from 4 to 72 hours. The frequency of a migraine may vary for each individual, with some developing only one per month while others may have several. During a migraine you may experience: pain on one side (or both) sides of your head, pounding or throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, and nausea/vomiting.
The final stage of a migraine is called Postdrome, which occurs immediately following the migraine. In this final stage the individual can feel extreme fatigue, experience brain fog, and may not be able to eat right away.
There are many factors that can trigger a migraine which include: hormonal changes, stress, processed foods, food additives (sweeteners), weather changes, alcohol consumption, physical exertion, sleep pattern changes, sensory stimulus (i.e. sun glare), and certain medications such as birth control and vasodilators.
Family history has been found in approximately 90% of people suffering from migraines and is the most common predictor in determining the chances of an individual becoming afflicted during their life. It is also believed that decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which occurs before/during menstruation, may cause blood vessels to spasm at the base of the neck.
Low adrenal and thyroid function may also be responsible for migraines. Imbalances of brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, also continue to be studied for a role they may play. Recent research bolsters the connection between thyroid disease and migraines as a study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain included over 8,400 participants observed over 20 years as part of medical research monitoring. The data collected from the study suggests that those with a pre-existing headache disorder have a 21 percent greater risk of developing hypothyroidism. Furthermore, those with a migraine disorder are 41 percent more likely to become hypothyroid.
At Holtorf Medical Group natural, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can be used to control the fluctuation of progesterone and estrogen levels, causing migraines in women. Botox injections, used in combination with natural hormone replacement, can be a very effective treatment for relieving migraine pain.