Have you ever spent an afternoon playing ball or lying on the beach, squinting in the sun the whole time? The squinting might have given you a headache. But once you moved out of the sun, the headache probably went away. Some headaches don’t disappear quite so easily. It can be very hard to find relief from a migraine headache. A migraine headache is not a typical headache, and just as there is more than one type of headache, there is also more than one type of migraine.
The head pain from a migraine can be so intense that many people must stay in bed and are unable to tolerate any noise or light. Most people struck with a migraine are unable to concentrate or think very clearly during the attack.
Migraine sufferers lose innumerable days from school or work, time spent with family, and other events important in their lives while trying to cope with the pain. The most common symptom of any migraine is severe head pain. The pain is usually located on one side of the head, but it may spread to the other side. In fact, the word migraine” means “half the head.” The pain may be an intense pounding or throbbing in the forehead, temple, ear, jaw, or around the eye. Some people say it feels like a hammer banging inside your head. Most people are unable to stand any stimuli and must retreat to a dark, quiet room for relief.
Many migraine sufferers also have problems with motion sickness. They tend to have colder hands and feet than people who don’t develop migraines. A person who is afflicted with migraines must endure an average of one to five attacks per month. Prescription medicine from a doctor is often required to stop the pain. A doctor may also prescribe other treatments for relief, such as relaxation therapy or biofeedback, a process by which the patient gains control over his or her body and the way it reacts to stress.
Migraines are caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the brain, which can be seen in illustration B.
Migraines are a special kind of headache and are in a class all by themselves. They are caused by the dilation, or enlargement, of blood vessels in the brain. Even though the pain of migraines is intense, they are considered primary headaches and do not indicate a brain tumor or other disorder.