Facts about Migraine by Dr Winnie Lim Khoo — Neurologist in Manila, Philippines

What is the direct cause of migraines?

A very specific cause of migraines is not known, but there may be fluctuations in certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages between brain cells. These changes may predispose some people to develop migraine headaches.

What are the risk factors for migraine?

Up to 25% of people experience a migraine headache at some point in their life. Most migraine sufferers are female. It is estimated that after adolescence, the ratio of female to male patients who experience migraines is about 3:1. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to migraine, as there is often a strong family history of migraine in patients with this disorder.

What are the common symptoms of migraines?

The most common symptoms of migraine are:

· Severe, often “pounding,” pain, usually on one side of the head

· Nausea and/or vomiting

· Sensitivity to light

· Sensitivity to sound

· Eye pain

How are migraines diagnosed?

According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders II (ICHD-II) criteria for migraine without aura, a patient must have had at least five headache attacks fulfilling the following criteria:

· Headache attacks lasting 4 to 72 hours (untreated or unsuccessfully treated)

· The headache has at least two of the following characteristics:

o Unilateral location

o Pulsating quality

o Moderate or severe pain intensity

o Aggravation by or causing avoidance of routine physical activity (for example, walking or climbing stairs)

· During the headache, at least one of the following characteristics:

o Nausea and/or vomiting

o Photophobia and/or phonophobia

· The headache cannot be attributed to another disorder

What is the treatment for migraines?

The treatment for migraines depends upon on how frequently the headaches occur and how long the headaches last. The treatment of an acute migraine headache may vary from over-the-counter medicines (OTC) to various prescription medications.