Written by Aditi Bang
Summary of Significance
Migraine, the third leading illness globally, is more common than diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy combined. 75% of people suffering from migraines face at least one attack a month; severe damage resides in half of the people encountering migraines (“The Migraine Trust - a Patient Focused, Research Driven UK Charity”). WHO ranks severe migraine attacks as the 6th most disabling illness to dementia, psychosis, and quadriplegia.
A migraine is a throbbing headache accompanied by unbearable pain, usually on one side of the head. Migraine attacks can last for hours to many days, and the pain can be so intense that a person can not even function in their routine (“Mayo Clinic - Mayo Clinic”).
Migraines contain four phases with symptoms, but a person may not undergo each phase each time a migraine occurs. Prodrome is a phase that happens before a migraine where a person many experience food cravings, stiffness, irritability, mood swings, and increased urination (“WebMD - Better Information. Better Health.”). An aura takes place before or during headaches. They are sensory disturbances that are usually visual; examples of aura may include flashes of light, needle sensations in arm or leg, difficulty speaking, and numbness in one side of the body (“Mayo Clinic - Mayo Clinic”). The attack phase is when the migraine begins; it typically starts above the eyes and affects one side of the head occurring with sensitivity to light, nausea/vomiting, and pulsing pain. After this intense phase, the postdrome phase follows where a person may experience tiredness and confusion for up to a day.
The contributing factors to migraines are not fully understood yet, but there are environmental, medical, and lifestyle factors that play a huge part. Heightened sensitivity to light and sound, high altitude, weather changes, and high humidity can induce migraines in some people (“Common Triggers”). Variations in a women’s estrogen level during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause can provoke headaches. Mood and anxiety disorders might play a part in migraine attacks, and obstructive sleep apnea results in a poor sleep routine which can implicate a migraine too (“What Causes Migraine”). Some oral medications such as nitroglycerin can aggravate headaches (“Migraine - Symptoms and Causes”). Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and alcoholic drinks like wine can trigger headaches. Alcohol is a diuretic that makes a person urinate more than the usual leading to dehydration. Consuming alcohol relaxes the blood vessels, increasing the blood flow to the brain (“Can Alcohol Cause Migraines?”). Drinking too much can make one prone to migraines. Multiple factors need to be taken into account to understand what causes a migraine, and the triggers vary from person to person.
Various risk factors make it more likely to have a migraine attack such as family history, hormonal changes, age, and sex. If members of one’s family have migraines frequently, a person is highly prone to be battling migraines too. Family history is the most prevalent risk factor, with a two-to-three-fold greater risk among those with relatives that have migraines in comparison to those who do not (Merikangas et al.). Estrogen and progesterone are critical in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy and may influence headache-related chemicals in the brain (“Headaches and Hormones: What’s the Connection?”). Fluctuating levels of estrogen before a lady’s period can evoke migraines. Women are three times more likely to experience migraines. A migraine can begin at any age. They tend to culminate around the 30s and then become less frequent throughout the following decades. Many risk factors make a person more prone to migraine attacks.
There are many types of migraines; the most common one is migraines without aura which accounts for three-quarters of all migraines. A person is facing chronic migraines when headaches happen for more than 15 days a month. Migraine with aura presents neurological symptoms such as flashing lights, numbness, and blind spots along with severe head pain. Hemiplegic migraine is a frightening, rare kind of migraine because the symptoms are similar to those of a stroke. A person facing a hemiplegic migraine will experience temporary weakness and numbness on one side of the body. Also, a person may encounter speech difficulties, vision issues, or confusion (“Types of Migraine”).
Migraines are a public health issue with serious socio-economical effects. Medical expenses are 70% greater for a family with a migraineur compared to one without. More than 150 million workdays are lost annually in the USA because of a migraine. Migraines greatly strain an individual along with a high possibility of other physical and psychiatric conditions such as sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety (“Migraine Facts”).
1 billion people around the world and 39 million Americans suffer from migraines, but there are only approximately 500 headache specialists in the U.S.! The majority of the migraine sufferers are never diagnosed and do not seek medical professionals for their pain management. 25% of sufferers would tremendously benefit from preventative measures, but only 12% receive it. Despite the immense prevalence of migraines and its serious effect on individuals, migraine treatment and cause research are greatly underfunded (“Migraine Facts”). NIH funding for research was only 50 cents per individual in 2017. However, many research organizations and grants are being provided to discover treatment options for all the sufferers.
A migraine is not just a simple headache; it is severe head pain with neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances and speech difficulties. It creates imbalances in the process of how the brain functions with approaching messages which can lead to changes in daily life.
The author explains migraines in-depth and illustrates the vast prevalence of this illness by giving quantitative data about how this disease affects a great amount of the population. Also, she describes the types of migraines and outlines the common misconception about migraines and headaches being similar. She could have enhanced her writing by adding clear transitions to make it easier for the reader. Overall, the author did a good job of staying on topic and giving a detailed summary of migraines and in the future, she can work on adding transitions to guide the reader through her writing.
“Can Alcohol Cause Migraines?” Drinkaware, www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/can-alcohol-cause-migraines. Accessed 26 July 2020.
“Common Triggers.” The Migraine Trust, www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/trigger-factors/common-triggers.
“Headaches and Hormones: What’s the Connection?” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-daily-headaches/in-depth/headaches/art-20046729.
“Mayo Clinic - Mayo Clinic.” Www.Mayoclinic.Org, www.mayoclinic.org.
Merikangas, Kathleen, et al. “Accuracy of Family History Reports of Migraine in a Community-Based Family Study of Migraine.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Mar. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4357559.
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“Migraine Facts.” Migraine Research Foundation, 10 Dec. 2019, www.migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts.
“Migraine Resources & Support.” American Migraine Foundation, www.americanmigrainefoundation.org.
“The Migraine Trust - a Patient Focused, Research Driven UK Charity.” The Migraine Trust, 28 May 2020, www.migrainetrust.org.
“WebMD - Better Information. Better Health.” WebMD, www.webmd.com. Accessed 26 July 2020.
“What Causes Migraine.” American Migraine Foundation, www.americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/what-causes-migraine.