dealing with migraines

Dealing with Migraines

Migraines are powerful headaches that are often associated with nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to light. They differ from other types of headaches by their intensity and the ability to last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days.

For many individuals, migraines can be more than a source of discomfort. The presence of a migraine can be debilitating and put a stop to all other activities. In essence, migraines can dramatically impact one’s quality of life.

Causes and triggers of a migraine

Doctors are still not sure exactly what causes a migraine. However, we do know that migraines tend to run in families. Therefore, those with family members that suffer from migraines may have them as well.

The onset of a migraine may also be triggered by factors such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Bright lights or sun glare
  • Stress at work or home
  • Certain foods or drinks (e.g., aged cheeses and salty and processed foods)
  • Changes in weather
  • Hormonal changes in women: Fluctuations in estrogen, such as before or during menstrual periods

This is not an exhaustive list of all possible migraine triggers. Many other factors can trigger a migraine.

Migraines may also be associated with certain medical conditions or environments such as:

Migraine symptoms

Migraine symptoms will vary from person to person. In addition to having different triggers, sufferers may experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms can include:

  • Moderate to severe pain (often described as a pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach upset or abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

Managing migraines

At the Kaplan Center, our doctors have years of experience treating patients suffering from the pain of migraine headaches. Your doctor will take time to ask about your symptoms, medical history and possible treatment options that you have tried in the past. This information will give them a broader context on what management options are best for your own situation. Options may include one or more of the following:

Steps you can take today to start managing your migraines

Find out what your triggers are by keeping a headache diary

Most doctors will recommend that sufferers try to avoid their migraine triggers as much as possible. If you are unsure of what triggers your migraine, consider using a diary. Write down what you ate, where you were or if you were exposed to other external stimuli (e.g., bright lights, sounds) right before the migraine started. Doing so may help you isolate what your personal triggers are.

Foods to avoid

Some foods are known to increase the chance of having a migraine. This includes:

  • Alcohol
  • Baked goods (particularly if you are sensitive to gluten or if you have an autoimmune disorder such as celiac disease)
  • Processed meats
  • MSG
  • Aged cheeses (e.g., blue, brie, cheddar)

Be sure to make an appointment to speak to one of our doctors who can provide further advice and guidance on the best way to help manage your migraines. Treatment options that are recommended will always be tailored to your symptoms, medical history and personal preference.


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