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Migraine Headaches: Diagnosis and Treatment


This paper seeks to explore migraine headaches and provide current developments as far as their causes, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are concerned. It introduces the new triggers that have come to be associated with the disease and hence the different treatment approaches. It concludes that migraine headaches need to be diagnosed long before they cause serious disability in the patient.

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Migraine headache has been medically known as a form of vascular headache. It is a neurological syndrome which causes a significant change in an individual’s perceptions, painful headaches, and a tendency to vomit (Taylor, 2009). It has been established physiologically that this disease is commonly found to affect women more than men. The most common type of migraine headache affects one half of the patient’s head (unilateral) and pulsating, and may take between 4 to 72 hours. Migraine has been classified into six various categories by the International Classification of Headache Disorders. The first one is migraine without any accompanying disturbance of one’s visual acuity (aura). The second is the type accompanied by aura. The third is category is the one affecting children and is characterized by periodic syndromes which come before migraine attacks and include intense periodic vomiting, abdominal pain, and periodic vertigo attacks (Stoppler, 2008). Retina migraine is another type which may cause blindness in the affected side of the head. The fifth category is the one characterized by long attacks of auras, seizures and brain wound. The sixth is the probable migraine which is not fully established to be diagnosed as migraine headache. Migraine headache has some causes or triggers, signs and symptoms, diagnosis procedures, and preventive measures. Migraine headache is a very common disease particularly among women and appropriate measures should be taken to detect the possibility of attack in good time before they get to acute stages.


For a long period of time, migraine headaches have been thought to be caused by problems with blood vessels, particularly in the brain. This theory established that enlargement of blood vessels (commonly known as vasodilation) in the brain results in the release of some chemicals from the nerve fibers that are found around the blood carrying vessels of the brain. However, developments in pathophysiology have established plural triggers or causes. Some triggers have been identified to precede the development of migraine headaches (Stoppler, 2008). Some of the triggers include; environmental, behavioral, infectious, chemical, hormonal, or dietary. These causes may be responsible for migraine headache although it is not easy to establish. Migraine patients, therefore, are usually advised to identify the probable predisposing factors of their headaches and hence to avoid them. However, it has also emerged that the causes could be due to multiple exposures to the triggers (Taylor, 2009).

Signs and Symptoms

There are some signs and symptoms of migraine headaches and vary from one person to another, mostly depending on the related trigger. This makes it difficult to give a clear outline of the signs and symptoms before, during, and post-attack. Experts have divided the phases of migraine attack into four major parts (Cohen, 2004). The first is the podrome phase which is experienced some days before the severe headache. The second is the aura phase which comes immediately before the headache. Pain phase is onset of the headache itself. The last phase is the postdrome which is felt after the severe pain subsides and causes general body and cognitive weakness. The signs and symptoms do vary significantly from one person to another (Taylor, 2009). The migraine headache has also been known to significantly affect the nervous system and hence altering the normal functioning of the body. Responses to stress and pain are supposedly regulated by the sympathetic nervous system. Unregulated responses cause these headaches and related disturbances (Stoppler, 2008). For instance, a feeling of vomiting and diarrhea may be experienced by the patient due to altered nervous system in the intestines.


Due to the very different causes and symptoms of migraine among individuals, doctors try to identify the appropriate methods to diagnose and treat the individual. The doctor may request the patient to keep a track of the headache to establish the probable cause or trigger (Stoppler, 2008). Blood tests are sometimes used to diagnose this disease. The most common is the CAT scan or MRI of the patient’s brain. These approaches help in ruling out other causes (medical).


Treatments of migraine vary as much as their causes are (Cohen, 2004). It may range from adjusting one’s diet, sleep patterns, to other alterations of lifestyle that will help avoid specific triggers. This is informed by the numerous causes of migraine headaches. Some drugs have also been designed to treat the various types of the disease. The medications used to treat migraine disease have been categorized into two major groups (Cohen, J. S. (2004). The first group contains the pain relievers which serve to abort the symptoms which have been manifested. The second category contains preventive medications. These are taken on regular basis to reduce the chances of attack. The choice of drugs to be used by the patient depends on the doctor’s diagnosis and prescription.


The paper has explored migraine headaches. It has discussed the causes/triggers, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. From the discussion, it has emerged that the causes of the diseases are many as opposed to past belief that it was only due to vasodilation. Given the diversity of the triggers as recently established, migraine headaches should be detected in good time to avoid any severe cases which may cause adverse disability.

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Cohen, J. S. (2004). Treating migraine headaches: the complete guide. E.M.D Enterprises.

Stoppler, M. S. (2008). Dealing with migraine headaches. New Harbinger Plc.

Taylor, S. (2009). Understanding migraine headaches. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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