Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When it comes to migraines, it can be difficult separating fact from fiction.Millions of Americans are affected by migraine, the disease is often underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or simply misunderstood.
Myth: A migraine is just a severe headache.
In reality, headaches are just one symptom of migraine disease. Unlike a typical headache, migraine disease has many symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, auras (light spots), and sensitivity to light and sound. In serious cases, migraine can also cause numbness, difficulty in speech, and severe semi-hemispherical head pain. A single migraine attack can last for hours, days, or even weeks.
Myth: People who are depressed, uptight, or compulsive are more likely to get migraine headaches, which are caused by psychological factors.
Migraine is a neurological disease, not a psychological disorder. Researchers who have studied migraine disease have found no links to certain personality types. Migraine pain is caused when serotonin levels drop, and researchers believe this causes the trigeminal nerve to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to the brain's outer covering. There they cause blood vessels to become dilated and inflamed, which results in headache pain.
Myth: Migraine headaches are caused by allergies.
There are no proven links between allergies and migraine attacks. Allergies and headaches are common occurrences, so when people have both, they may assume there is a connection.
Myth: Both men and women are equally likely to experience migraine disease and will have the same type of migraine pain.
In fact, about three times as many women suffer from migraine attacks as men, and women may find that migraine headaches begin just before or shortly after the onset of menstruation. Some women report improvement in their migraines later in pregnancy, but others report that their migraines worsened during the first trimester. If pregnancy or menstruation affects migraines, headaches are also likely to worsen if taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.