I worked in an emergency room for over a year, and I was astounded both by how many people came in for migraines and how shitty it is to have them. They couldn't stand the lights on in the room or a voice raised above a whisper and had uncontrollable vomiting. Plus, crying children in the waiting room were even more unbearable than normal. Migraine headaches are a real problem; they can shut down your life in a hurry. A migraine is severe, often throbbing pain that can include puking, intense light and sound sensitivity, and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some people can tell when one is coming on by tingling sensations or changes in vision. Migraines don't really have causes so much as triggers. Your genes can have something to do with it, but if you're prone to migraines, things like stress, sleeping habits, hormonal changes, your environment, or even certain foods might set you off. Really learning your triggers and how to manage them is the best route, and chronic migraines should be checked out by a doctor who can give more advice and medication to ease them.
Treatment for Migraine Headaches
Learn what triggers your migraines and avoid it. The easiest way to figure this out will be to keep track of your migraines. Keep a journal of each migraine along with what you were doing, eating, etc., before it started. Look for patterns, and hopefully you'll having fewer migraines by steering clear of the problem. Some triggers are completely unavoidable (like how hormone levels change depending on the time of the month for the ladies); when you can't avoid triggers, move on to other options.
Simple lifestyle changes might lessen migraine frequency and intensity. Sticking to an exercise routine can reduce stress in your life. That on its own sounds like a good deal, but you'll also have better overall health. Likewise, if stress brings about your migraine, you could get fewer of them. Stay rested by having a good sleep routine and trying relaxation techniques. Your well-rested, relaxed body can better manage pain. If you feel a migraine coming on, go to your happy place. That plan should include a dark, quiet room without distractions if at all possible.
One form of medication for migraines is the pain reliever. A no-brainer, right? You hurt, so make the pain go away. There are several options within this category, and you should first try the over-the-counter stuff, but if you're reading this, you've probably already been down that road. Your doctor can prescribe stronger medications. Common prescriptions include triptans (reduce pain, nausea, and light/sound sensitivity), ergot (same as triptans, but less costly and effective), and opiates (you'll feel great, but addiction is a worry). Don't forget that each med will have its own list of side effects.
The other common migraine medications are preventative. Another common sense cure: stop them from happening in the first place. Preventive measures are more for those with a high frequency of migraines that disrupt daily life on a regular basis. Options here are antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, beta blockers, and even botox injections. They can all give you the gift of fewer, potentially less painful migraines (that last one might even fix both your migraines and your beauty worries all in one). Again, consider the side effects, and don't count on these to necessarily wipe out all occurrences of migraines.
Your doctor may run some tests to discover the source of your migraines. This will most likely happen only if you have no history of headaches and are suddenly having severe migraines. In such a case, there may be an identifiable underlying cause to the headaches (not simply the headache symptoms) which would need to be treated. Tests might include CT scans or MRIs of your brain, or (possibly) a lumbar puncture, commonly called a spinal tap. This procedure could diagnose meningitis, a potentially deadly condition.
If you're suffering from chronic migraines, your number one goal should be to learn to manage them. The best resource for this will be your doctor; become good friends with him or her. Remember that migraine journal I told you to keep? Another thing to write down in it is any treatment method you've tried and how it worked (or didn't) for you. This will be useful information for your doctor, your new best friend. Even after initiating medical attention, it may take a while to find the right combination of treatments for you. A physical and some tests will be needed to figure out the cause, and then your doctor will prescribe what he or she thinks might help you. Trial and error may be the only way to figure it out, so do your best to be patient. I know it'll be hard to remember that when you can't function because you hurt so much you've been puking your guts up all day and can't get off the bathroom floor, but try.