Though all headaches can be painful, migraines tend to be especially so, and even long-time migraine sufferers may not know why that is.
Anyone who has experienced a headache is aware of just how overwhelming they can be. And when it comes to pain and disruption of daily life, perhaps no type of headache is more overwhelming than migraines.
The World Health Organization notes that migraines are caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to the release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head. Though all headaches can be painful, migraines tend to be especially so, and even long-time migraine sufferers may not know why that is.
The health care experts at Penn Medicine note that migraines are more than just headaches. When a person is suffering a migraine, the changes in brain activity that are occurring are affecting blood in the brain and surrounding tissues. That can cause a range of symptoms that can make migraines an especially difficult issue to contend with. Severe head pain is a common characteristic of migraines, but Penn Medicine notes individuals also may develop these symptoms while suffering from a migraine:
• Increasing sensitivity to light,
sound or smells
• Extreme fatigue
Each of these symptoms is difficult to contend with on its own, and much more so when individuals also are experiencing migraine-related pain. In addition, some individuals experience some or all of these symptoms during the course of a migraine. What’s more, estimates from the American Migraine Foundation indicate that untreated migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. In addition, the AMF notes that a migraine attack is made up of four phases, and a week can go by between the onset of the first phase and the completion of the fourth. The symptoms combined with the length of the migraine undoubtedly contribute to the well-earned reputation that migraines are the most difficult of all headaches to confront.
So what can be done?
The AMF notes that the exact causes of migraines remain unclear. However, there may be a hereditary link, and various environmental factors can trigger an attack. Individuals should ask close family members, including parents, if they have dealt with migraines. It also can be wise to avoid common triggers, which may include certain foods and alcohol. Making a concerted effort to stay hydrated also may help in the fight against migraines. Data indicates that women suffer considerably more migraines than men, and the AMF suggests that hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during menstrual cycles, could be behind that. Women armed with this knowledge can do their best to avoid potential migraine triggers when they’re menstruating.
Migraines can be debilitating, and headaches are not the only way they can adversely affect quality of life. Individuals can learn more about migraines at www.americanmigrainefoundation.org.