Migraine Awareness Week
Migraine awareness week is a crucial annual event observed during the last week of September (24th Sunday to 30th Saturday), dedicated to raising awareness of migraine, a pervasive and often misunderstood neurological disorder. The purpose of this day is to reach out to millions of individuals across the globe who grapple with the challenges posed by migraine.
During migraine awareness week 2023, various organizations, advocacy groups, and healthcare professionals unite to educate the public about the diverse aspects of this condition. They provide valuable information about the different types of migraines, their symptoms, triggers, and their wide-ranging impact on individuals and their families. This special week aims to educate the public about migraine, its symptoms, impact, and treatment options.
History Of Migraine Awareness Week
Migraine awareness week originated in 1989 when a group of advocates in the United States initiated a week-long awareness campaign for migraines. The inaugural event took place in March 1990 and has been an annual tradition.
The awareness initiative expanded its reach over the years. In 1993, it extended into Canada, and in 2012, it reached the United Kingdom. Today, migraine awareness week is a global event observed in over 100 countries, making it a worldwide effort to raise understanding and support for those affected by migraines.
What Is Migraine?
Migraine, a common neurological disorder, presents with various symptoms, notably a pulsating headache typically on one side of the head. Physical activity, light, sound, and odors can exacerbate the pain, which can persist for at least four hours or even days. However, it's essential to recognize that a migraine is more than just a severe headache.
This neurological condition can induce debilitating throbbing pain, often confining individuals to bed for days. Other associated symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, visual disturbances, numbness, irritability, difficulty speaking, and temporary loss of vision.
Types Of Migraine
Migraines come in various types, often with multiple names for the same condition.
- Migraine With Aura (Complicated Migraine): Approximately 15% to 20% of migraine sufferers experience an aura before their headache.
- Migraine Without Aura (Common Migraine): This type strikes without the warning of an aura but has similar symptoms.
- Migraine Without Head Pain (Silent or Acephalgic Migraine): It includes the aura but lacks the typical headache.
- Hemiplegic Migraine: This migraine type involves temporary paralysis, neurological or sensory changes on one side of the body, and can include head pain or not.
- Retinal Migraine (Ocular Migraine): Characterized by temporary vision loss in one eye and dull eye pain that may spread to the head.
- Chronic Migraine: Occurs at least 15 days per month, with varying symptoms and pain severity. Overuse of headache medications can lead to more frequent attacks.
- Migraine With Brainstem Aura: Features vertigo, slurred speech, double vision, or balance loss preceding the headache, which may affect the back of the head.
- Status Migrainosus: A rare and severe migraine lasting over 72 hours, often associated with intense headache, pain, and nausea, potentially triggered by medications or medication withdrawal.
Symptoms Of Migraine
The primary symptom of migraine is a severe headache, often described as throbbing and affecting one or both sides of the head, sometimes to the extent of hindering daily activities. Additional common migraine symptoms encompass
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
- Neck stiffness
- Nasal congestion
Some individuals with migraines experience an "aura" before the headache begins. Aura, lasting from minutes to an hour, varies among individuals and may involve
- Visual disturbances (e.g., flashing lights or zigzag lines)
- Sensory changes (e.g., tingling or numbness in the face, hands, or feet)
- Difficulty in speech
- Weakness on one side of the body
What Is Aura?
An aura comprises sensory, motor, and speech symptoms that typically act as warning signals signaling the onset of a migraine headache. Frequently mistaken for seizures or strokes, auras usually precede the headache but can also occur during or after it. They tend to last 10 to 60 minutes, and approximately 25% of migraine sufferers experience auras. Aura symptoms are reversible, meaning they can be alleviated.
- Seeing bright flashing dots, sparkles, or lights.
- Blind spots in the vision.
- Numb or tingling skin.
- Speech alterations.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
- Temporary vision loss.
- Visual disturbances like wavy or jagged lines.
- Changes in smell or taste.
- A peculiar sensation.
Causes Of Migraine
Various factors can trigger migraines.
- Emotional Stress: Stress is a common migraine trigger, as it releases certain brain chemicals and increases muscle tension and blood vessel dilation.
- Skipping Meals: Delaying meals can trigger migraines.
- Food Sensitivities: Specific foods and additives like aged cheese, alcohol-containing beverages, chocolate, and nitrates in processed meats can trigger up to 30% of migraines.
- Caffeine: Excessive caffeine intake or withdrawal can lead to headaches, although it's sometimes used to treat acute migraine attacks sparingly.
- Overusing Pain Medications: Frequent use of headache relief medications can result in rebound headaches.
- Hormonal Changes (Women): Migraines are more common around menstrual periods, during pregnancy, or due to birth control pills and hormone therapy. They are generally worse between puberty and menopause.
- Light: Various types of light, including flashing lights, fluorescent lights, screens (TV or computer), and sunlight, can trigger migraines.
Treatment For Migraine
Migraine treatment focuses on managing and alleviating symptoms. There are two main approaches.
Abortive Treatment: These medications are taken at the onset of a migraine attack to stop or reduce its severity. They include pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin, triptans that constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways and anti-nausea drugs.
Preventive Treatment: These medications are taken regularly to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, especially for those with chronic or severe migraines. They include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs.
Lifestyle changes can also help manage migraines, such as identifying and avoiding triggers, managing stress, regular sleep patterns, and staying hydrated. Consulting a healthcare provider is crucial to determine the most suitable treatment plan.
Migraine awareness week sheds light on the world of migraines. They're more than just headaches, with various types, stages, and triggers. Also, a migraine episode can occur in four stages, and each stage has a set of distinct symptoms. Understanding is key, and there are medications and lifestyle changes to manage them. Let's support those affected and raise migraine awareness for a migraine-aware world! #MigraineAwareness