A migraine is a severe, painful headache that is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the Arms
and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days. This Medical News Today articles include essential details on what migraine headaches are, their causes, the signs and symptoms associated with migraines, how they are diagninised, how to treat and prevent them, and when to consider going to the (in the UK it is called A&E, or Accident and Emergency). At the end of some sections you may also see introductions to any recent developments that Medical News Today has covered. What are migraine headaches? Migraine headaches result from a combination of blood vessel enlargement and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around these blood vessels. During the headache, an artery enlarges that is located on the outside of the skull just under the skin of the temple (temporal artery). This causes a release of chemicals that cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. Migraine headaches can be very debilitating. A migraine headache causes the sympathetic nervous system to respond with feelings of nausea, diorhea , and vomiting. This response also delays the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine (affecting food absorption), decreases blood circulation (leading to cold hands and feet), and increases sensitivity to light and sound. According to the National Library of Medicine1, approximately 12% of Americans get migraine headaches. Females are much more likely to get them than males. The National Headache Foundation says that over 37 million people in the United States suffer from migraine. It is a vascular headache which tends to affect people between 15 and 55 years of age. Approximately three-quarters of all migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine. The Foundation adds that fewer than half of all migraine sufferers have been properly diagnosed by their healthcare provider. Migraine is commonly misdiagnosed as tension-type headache or sinus headache. Recent developments on migraine headaches from MNT news Childhood migraines linked to behavioural problems Researchers from the Glia Institute, Sao Paulo, Brazil and the Einstein College of Medicine, New York, USA, found that kids with migraines are much more likely to also have behavioral problems, such as attention issues,anxiety , and depression, compared to children who never have migraines. Brain lessons and Migraine Links: Women who suffer from migraines have a greater risk of having deep white matter hyperintensities (brain lesions) compared to other women, researchers from Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands, reported in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) (November 2012). They added that migraine severity, frequency and how long they had been going on for were not associated with the progression of lesions. INCOMPLETE ARTERYBRAIN STRUCTURE CAUSE OF MIGRAINES Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported in PLoS ONE that an incomplete network of arteries that supply the brain with blood may contribute to migraine headache risk. Variations in the arteries may result inconsistent blood flow, causing migraines. What causes migraines? Some people who suffer from migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause the headaches, but many cannot. Potential migraine triggers include: Allergies and allergic reactions Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors or perfumes Physical or emotional stress Changes in sleep patterns or irregular sleep Smoking or exposure to smoke Skipping meals or fasting Alcohol Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, hormone fluctuations during menopause onset Tension headaches Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG), or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami) Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods. Triggers do not always cause migraines, and avoiding triggers does not always prevent migraines. Recent developments on the possible causes of migraine headaches from MNT news A higher percentage of obese people have episodic (occasional) migraines compared to individuals with a healthy body weight, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported in the journal Neurology. Lee Peterlin and colleagues carried out a study involving 3,862 middle-aged men and women. They were asked about their height, weight and how often (if ever) they had migraines. Of the participants, 1,044 were obese and 188 had episodic migraines (fewer than 14 attacks per month). The team found that their obese participants were 81% more likely to have occasional migraines than those of healthy weight. They also noted that obesity and episodic migraines were closely linked among the female participants, but not the men. The researchers wrote "Our findings indicate that the risk of episodic migraine (of all frequencies) is increased in those with obesity, with the strongest association among those younger than 50 years, those who are white, and women. These results suggest that doctors should promote healthy lifestyle choices for diet and exercise in people with episodic migraine." A team of scientists, including Emily A. Bates, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Brigham Young University, who has been plagued by migraines since her teens, have identified a gene mutation that increases a person's susceptibility to migraines. They published their findings inScience Translational Medicine (May 2013 issue). Dr. Bates explained what her teenage years were like. She was a keen athlete and remembers wondering when the next migraine attack would strike. Her ability to practice, compete as an athlete and to study were often disrupted by her condition. She decided to become a scientist and try to find out more about migraines, their causes, and research into possible therapies and prevention measures.. Bate's migraines did eventually stop, but not her dedication to completing her mission. She joined a team of geneticists led by Louis Ptá?ek from the UCSF, where most of this latest study was carried out. Ptá?ek, Bates and team worked with two families who they believed have a dominantly inherited form of migraine. The team set out to determine whether any genetic abnormalities (mutations) were shared by the two families. One was found that affected casein kinase delta (a type of protein) production. In fact, the mutation was present among most of the migraine sufferers in the two families.