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Migraine Headaches

Migraine Headaches

Areas Affected
Head, eyes & stomach

The etiology of migraine headaches is poorly understood. Growing evidence supports the role of neurogenic peptides, such as serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. These vasoactive neuropeptides stimulate an inflammatory cascade with the release of endothelial cells, mast cells, & platelets. The inflammation causes vasodilatation of the blood vessels in the brain which results in a migraine. There is also a genetic predisposition since a family history is obtained in more then 50% of the cases. A migraine headache can last from two hours to two days & longer in some cases.

A migraine may or may not be preceded by a prodrome such as a short period of depression, restlessness, irritability, or visual field defects such as tunnel vision. These symptoms may disappear before the pain begins or may merge with it.

Certain factors can provoke or “trigger” a migraine in some people. These triggers can be alcohol, especially red wine, stress, foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), and foods that contain tyramine such as aged cheese.

Who is Affected
The National Headache Foundation estimates that nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. Migraines occur at any age but will usually start between the ages of 10-30. Migraines occur about three times more frequently in women than in men, 3:1 ratio. Each migraine can last from four hours to three days. Occasionally, it will last longer.