If you are a migraine sufferer, here are a few basic steps to avoid a migraine attack or minimize its impact.
Migraine is a type of recurrent headache that may either be one-sided (unilateral) or double-sided (bilateral) – meaning it could affect one side or both sides of the head. Migraine sufferers usually describe it as a throbbing or splitting headache that is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
If you have migraine, you suffer from recurrent attacks of headache that tends to be so severe it hampers your daily routines. It is therefore imperative to avoid an attack as much as possible.
The following are key steps for you to avoid a migraine attack, or minimize its severity:
Know the basic facts about migraine.
Although much about migraines remains unclear, some researchers believe that these headaches may arise from functional changes in the trigeminal nerve system, a key pain pathway in the nervous system, and also by imbalances in neurochemicals, including serotonin, a substance in the brain that helps regulate pain messages going through this nerve pathway. Serotonin levels are decreased during a headache. Researchers think that this stimulates the trigeminal nerve to release neuropeptides, which travel to the meninges (the outer covering of the brain), where they cause the blood vessels to dilate and become inflamed – resulting in pain.
Know what triggers a migraine attack.
There are several factors that can precipitate a migraine attack. Often referred to as migraine triggers, these factors include:
- Medications, including pain relievers routinely used, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or contraceptive pills, as well as drugs that act to dilate blood vessels (vasodilators)
- Hormonal changes, such as during menstruation and nearing menopause
- Lifestyle factors, such as lack of sleep, excessive exercise, fatigue and emotional stress
- Dietary factors like skipping meals, alcohol intake, consumption of foods containing tannin, sulfites, tyramine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and phenylethylamine (chocolates, cheese, processed meat, coffee, tea, apple juice, dried fruits, red wine, peas, olives, pickles, etc.)
- Glaring lights
- Strong scents
- Sudden changes in weather, altitude or even time zone
Identify the triggers that specifically cause your migraine attacks.
The aforementioned migraine triggers may vary from one person to another. What triggers your migraine may not trigger an attack in other sufferers. Therefore, you need to identify which ones are causing your headache, so you can avoid them as much as possible.
Avoid what triggers your migraine attacks.
Once you have identified your migraine triggers, you should do your best to avoid them. This may need a little more discipline and ingenuity on your part. For instance, you may be fond of chocolates, like most people are, but these products trigger your migraine; or you may like a certain scent but likewise, it triggers a migraine attack. Avoiding the triggers would then pose a greater challenge.
Minimize your chances of having a migraine attack.
Unlike most of migraine triggers which can be modified or avoided, menstruation, menopause, and certain environmental factors are unavoidable. What you need to do is to minimize other factors which tend to increase your chances of having a migraine attack during your menstrual period or menopausal stage.
You may do that by doing the following:
- getting enough sleep
- eating a healthy diet
- wearing sunglasses when outdoors during the day
- staying in dimly lighted areas
- avoiding strong scents
- avoiding migraine-causing food and drinks
Seek proper medical advice.
As always, be sure to consult your doctor for you to have a thorough understanding of migraine and a clear picture of your specific condition. Your doctor can help you identify certain factors that can trigger your migraine attacks, and offer sound medical advice.