Where Are Migraines Located In The Brain?

Migraines are a neurological condition which causes throbbing headaches, visual disturbance, nausea and fatigue.  They are debilitating condition causing sufferers to miss days off work and special occasions. The cause remains a mystery and treatment involves monitoring triggers, over the counter painkillers and Triptans. But where are migraines located in the brain? Very little research goes into treating the condition which is surprising since they negatively affect people’s lives.

There are three types of migraine; Aura with pain, pain on its own and Aura without pain.  Sufferers suffer a throbbing headache on one side of their head. A host of other symptoms set migraines apart from normal headaches.  They last between four and 72 hours leaving the sufferer feeling weak and tired. They occur regularly, sporadically or every few years no one suffers from migraines in exactly the same way (NHS).

Traditional treatment involves painkillers and recently triptans.  Doctors encourage sufferers to monitor their migraines to identify triggers to help prevent an attack.   Preventing migraines is the most effective way to avoid the debilitating attacks.

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Where Do Migraines Occur?

The most prominent symptom of a migraine is a throbbing headache.  Other symptoms include; nausea, numbness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, temperature changes and difficulty concentrating.  They occur in four stages; onset, aura, headache and recovery. They affect the whole body with the epicentre in the brain (NHS).

Abnormal brain activity affects the neural pathways and chemicals in the brain affecting blood flow. This is triggered in the 5HT (serotonin) pathway.  No one knows exactly how migraines occur apart from possible triggers causing a mysterious chain reaction. Triggers include; hormonal changes, stress, strong smells, tiredness, depression, alcohol, caffeine, not eating regularly, bright lights and the contraception pill (NHS). 

Women suffer from migraines more frequently than men due to their menstrual cycle and hormone fluctuations.

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Some people manage the pain with over the counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen while others resort to prescription drugs.  Medicine containing opiates are an option but are also very addictive due to the body building up resistance. Modern treatments involve triptans (such as Sumatriptan and Zolmitriptan) taken during the onset of a migraine to prevent an intense pain.  Triptans relax the blood vessels in the brain encouraging blood flow.

Some people don’t respond to drug treatment and use migraine forecasting to prevent an attack. Migraine forecasting involves recording everything you eat, drink, feel and do to determine possible triggers.  There are a number of apps available to help people to track their migraines and triggers. Preventing migraines is an effective way to stop them from ruining lives.

When You Need To Seek Help

Most people learn to live with their migraines and deal with the pain in their own way with little intervention from their doctor. People who frequently have a migraine with an aura carry a small risk of having a stroke. The combined contraceptive pill increases this risk slightly and doctors generally advise migraine sufferers against taking it.  People with mental health problems such as; depression, bipolar, anxiety and panic disorders may suffer from migraines.

The following symptoms require urgent medical help; paralysis, slurred speech, intense headache, stiff neck, confusion and seizures.  These may be a sign of a stroke or meningitis and require an ambulance. (Source: NHS.UK)

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By Parv Sagoo (July 2018)