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Why you should not mistake 'Migraine' as just a regular headache

Mid-Day logo Mid-Day 22-05-2019 mid-day online desk
a person taking a selfie: Representational Picture © Provided by Jagran Prakashan Ltd. Representational Picture

According to WHO (World Health Organisation), headache disorders affect an estimated 50 percent of people around the world. Migraine is the commonest cause of headache in patients who are seen at headache clinics across the globe. However, many Some people have difficulty in differentiating between a common headache and migraine, which is a chronic condition.

What is Migraine?

All headaches are divided into Primary – where no serious underlying cause is identifiable on examination or investigation and Secondary – where there is an identifiable underlying cause for the headache. But the pain from both can be just as severe! Migraine is the commonest type of primary headache seen in practice that can cause severe head pain and other symptoms. People with migraine may encounter recurring symptoms that doctors call episodes or attacks. Migraine affects a large number of people. Based on global prevalence data, approximately 150 million people in India have a chance of getting a mild or moderate or severe migraine at any point of time in their life.

It is unfortunate that such a common disorder continues to be underdiagnosed, not only in India but around the world. One of the major reasons such a common disorder is underdiagnosed is mainly because of the lack of awareness attached to this disorder. Not being able to identify the reason for their headache, the patient ends up going to an ENT surgeon or Ophthalmologist, thinking wrongly that the cause of their headache is a sinus problem or a problem with their vision.

a close up of sunglasses: Migraine Infographic © Provided by Jagran Prakashan Ltd. Migraine Infographic

What are the striking features of migraine?

  • It's a recurrent headache.
  • Common in the younger age group (10-15 to 25-30 years of age).
  • Frequently seen more in women than in men in the ratio of 3:1. 
  • 70% of people who suffer from migraine have a genetic linkage.
  • There are a few triggers that can precipitate a migraine attack – such as exposure to excess of sun rays, less food intake and lack of sleep, certain dietary items, emotional and physical stress.

How to identify migraine?

Some of the striking symptoms of Migraine are a headache that is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, intolerance of light and sound and the desire to be left alone.  Migraine is often misunderstood or dismissed as just another headache!

People suffering from migraine are usually disregarded. Migraine is inconsistent and can happen anytime, anywhere. There could be occasions where you will see a person who suffers from migraine just normally enjoying at a party, watching a movie or having fun, and the very next day they may complain of a severe headache.

Treatment options available for migraine:

  • The first and foremost is to take control of your lifestyle. As far as possible try and have less exposure to direct sunlight.
  • Have a regularity in your time table. Try and have fixed schedules as far as possible.
  • Have 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
  • You can manage your migraine by taking medicines and have a proper balance of food intake and sleep.

Migraine has been established as one of the top disabling neurological disorders by the World Headache Organisation. It is therefore important to spread the awareness that migraine can be treated by recognising the symptoms at the right time. Although Migraine cannot be prevented from happening because of the genetic linkage, you can definitely control migraine through controlling the triggers of migraine and taking the right medicines under supervision.

Article by Dr. K. Ravishankar MD, Specialist in Headache Management, Headache and Migraine Clinic, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre.

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