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The Facts Behind Migraine

Symptoms and diagnosis

By Neurosurgery Singapore

What is a migraine?

Migraines are severe, recurring, and painful headaches. They can be preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs and other symptoms. The extreme pain that migraines cause can last for hours or even days. Migraines can follow an aura of sensory disturbances followed by a severe headache that often appears on one side of the head. They tend to affect people aged 15 to 55 years.

What are some symptoms of a migraine?

The main symptom of a migraine is usually an intense headache on one side of the head.

The pain is usually a moderate or severe throbbing sensation that gets worse when you move and prevents you from carrying out normal activities.

In some cases, the pain can occur on both sides of your head and may affect your face or neck.

Additional symptoms

Other symptoms commonly associated with a migraine include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound – which is why many people with a migraine want to rest in a quiet, dark room

Some people also occasionally experience other symptoms, including:

  • Sweating
  • Poor concentration,
  • Feeling very hot or very cold
  • Abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Diarrhoea

Not everyone with a migraine experiences these additional symptoms and some people may experience them without having a headache.

The symptoms of a migraine usually last between four hours and three days, although you may feel very tired for up to a week afterwards.

“Migraine is an extraordinary prevalent neurological disease. Most people don’t realize how serious and incapacitating migraine can be. It is much more than a bad headache and remains a poorly understood disease that is often undiagnosed and undertreated.”

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What types of diagnosis?

  • If you have migraines or a family history of migraines, a doctor trained in treating headaches (neurologist) will likely diagnose migraines based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical and neurological examination. Your doctor may also recommend more tests to rule out other possible causes for your pain if your condition is unusual, complex or suddenly becomes severe.
    • Blood tests. Your doctor may order these to test for blood vessel problems, infections in your spinal cord or brain, and toxins in your system.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and blood vessels.MRI scans help doctors diagnose tumors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, infections, and other brain and nervous system (neurological) conditions.
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the brain. This helps doctors diagnose tumors, infections, brain damage, bleeding in the brain and other possible medical problems that may be causing headaches.
    • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). Your doctor may recommend a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) if he or she suspects infections, bleeding in the brain or another underlying condition. In this procedure, a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in the lower back to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for analysis in a lab.

Living with migraines

Migraines can come on quickly, many times without warning. They can ruin your day—or even several days at a time. They can make you miss work, miss important events, miss out on fun. If you have recurring migraines, you probably feel like you don’t have total control of your life.

Work with us to take back control. Document when you get migraines and what you were doing and eating. Keep a record of what the weather was like and if you were exposed to unusual smells or environments. Knowing your triggers can help you prevent migraines. Our Neurologist may prescribe different medicines or combinations of medicines. Doing this helps sort out which will be most effective for preventing migraines or stopping them when they start.