A new understanding about one of the most common causes of pain has led to new approaches in its treatment
Migraine affects one in five women. Sufferers are all too familiar with the throbbing, often one-sided headache made worse by any movement, the crippling nausea, sometimes with vomiting, and the acute sensitivity to light, sound, smells and/or touch.
Doctors now recognise migraine as a complex neurological condition with several distinct stages.
What causes migraine?
Until recently, migraine was often attributed to the widening of blood vessels inside the head. Experts now believe that the cause of migraines is due to certain brain regions being oversensitive to some stimuli, such as dehydration, sleeping too much or too little, skipping a meal, strong smells, sunlight, even eating certain foods or changes in weather. These stimuli excite the trigeminal nerve ( the main sensory nerve in the head), causing it to release chemicals that transmit pain signals to the brain and inflame (widen) the blood vessels.
New research also points to muscle tension in the jaw and neck aggravating the trigeminal nerve, setting off the same chain of events. Before pain sets in, one in five sufferers have auras – unnerving neurological disturbances, such as seeing stars, or blind spots in visions, trouble finding words; and feeling tingling and numbness, or even vertigo.
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