Ever had a sudden headache which erupted through your whole body causing nausea, vomiting or even temporary blindness? Then you just might be suffering from a migraine. But guess what, you are not alone, about 38 million people suffer from a migraine each year in the US which makes it 1 in every four households. A migraine not surprisingly occupies the 3rd position among the most prevalent disease in the world and causes severe problems in the sufferer with over 90% people failing to work during migraine attacks. It has been observed that 90% of the people suffering from a migraine appeared to have a history of a migraine running in their family.
In 2015, it was estimated that the total cost incurred by Americans for migraine treatment was more than $5 billion, another $41 billion was estimated to be spent on the different problems that can occur due to a migraine. The WHO states a migraine is more common in women than men in the ratio of 2:1 owing to hormonal influences. Over 50% of migraine patients often go untreated and suffer from the chronic condition. Therefore it has been enlisted as one of the most disabling neurological illness by the WHO.
So what is it that is different in a person affected by a migraine that he or she suffers so much pain? It may be because the brain of migraine sufferers is more sensitive to external stimuli than a normal person. Let’s understand more about it.
Inside the Brain
The trigeminal nerve which is present in the brain when stimulated releases a range of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, in turn, cause inflammation of blood vessels around the brain resulting in the sensation of severe pain in our head. This system is universal for all people, but in the case of migraine patients this system is more sensitive and is likely to be stimulated by even the slightest disturbance. These external stimuli thus remain among the primary causes of a migraine.
More causes of a migraine
The exact causes of migraine have not yet been fully understood. However, it is believed to be caused by the interaction of some factors. The primary theories put forward by experts regarding the cause of a migraine is listed below-
A family history of a migraine is seen as the reason why many suffer from this condition. More than two third of the patients have some relatives suffering from the same, especially from their mother’s side. Having said that, scientists are yet to detect an exact migraine causing gene in the human body.
Inconsistent performance of vascular system Irregularities in the vascular system of the brain has also been identified as one of the primary causes of a migraine. Experts now believe migraine aura is produced due to a neurological condition called spreading depression which results in a wave of lowered electrical impulse and lowered blood flow that covers the whole cerebral cortex.
Sometimes, abnormal chemical production in the brain and the nervous pathway may also be the cause of a migraine. This abnormal chemical production disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters and other chemicals present in the brain causing migraine associated headache and other abnormalities.
Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle- A menstrual migraine has been observed to be caused due to variations in the hormonal setup in women during their menstrual cycle.
Disorder in CNS-Some internal damage or disorder in the Central Nervous System is also seen as a probable cause of a migraine headache, as a result of a union between the symptoms of Autonomic Nervous Systems.
Catalyst for a migraine
There are various triggers which may influence the occurrence of migraine pain they are:-
- Emotional triggers like stress, anxiety, shock, tension, etc. which may act as the trigger to cause a migraine related headaches and its associated problems.
- Physical triggers such as poor posture, jetlag, low blood sugar, etc.
- Dietary triggers like alcohol, poor diet, smoking, etc.
- Environment factors like loud music, bright light, etc.
It is difficult for anybody to imagine the amount of pain endured by people suffering from this condition. The pain goes beyond the physical periphery causing enormous problems both in psychological and professional life. As treatment is both costly and has its set of side effects, it is best advised to avoid the factors that trigger a migraine as much as you can. Over 5 million Americans experience at least one migraine attack a year and over 11 million blaming migraine for their inability to perform regular tasks. It’s high time that cheap and effective methods for treatment of a migraine be developed by understanding the actual causes of a migraine and providing an economical solution for the same.