If you suffer from chronic migraines, you have our sympathy.
These very strong and painful headaches, which also trigger a host of other unpleasant symptoms, including light sensitivity and nausea, are often debilitating and will need to be treated.
Definition of Chronic Migraines
According to the International Headache Society(1), chronic migraines are defined as headaches which happen more than fifteen times a month, over a period of three months.
Eight of these (out of the fifteen total headaches) must be classified as migraines which aren’t triggered by overuse of medications.
Those who have less than fifteen “headaches days” a month likely fit into another category, which is the sub-type, which is known as an episodic migraine.
Now that you know the formal definition, let’s talk about the symptoms, causes and treatments.
These types of headaches are categorized as moderate to severe. They tend to bring discomfort which is restricted to one side of the head. As well, pain tends to have a pulsating quality.
Chronic migraines will also get worse when headache sufferers perform typical physical activities. In some cases, these kinds of headaches can often trigger vomiting and nausea. As well, they usually trigger sound and light sensitivity.
The root causes are not fully understood. However, some researchers believe that sufferers may have underlying central nervous disorders which make them susceptible to an array of migraine “triggers”.
As well, genetics may play a role. Also, it’s possible that brain chemical abnormalities and nerve pathways are responsible for chronic and episodic type headaches.
Now, let’s talk about triggers. There are many triggers and you probably know some of yours already.
If you don’t know them already, it can be very helpful to keep a diary of all of your pain so that you can learn how to identify what causes your headaches.
Some foods tend to bring on these headaches. For example, foods which are aged or contain a lot of salt may be triggers. As well, foods which are highly-processed may set the stage for these headaches.
Other common triggers include skipping meals, drinking booze (or caffeinated beverages), consuming artificial sweeteners and eating foods with MSG.
Exposure to Light/Noise
Some people can also be triggered by external stimuli, such as exposure to loud noises and/or intense light. Other factors, like pungent smells and hormonal shifts can also be a factor in the onset of chronic migraines.
Medication, including birth control pills, vasodilators and HRT (hormone replacement therapy) may also be triggers.
Since many people often take a variety of medication for other ailments, it’s important to check the side effects of anything you are taking.
As with many modern lifestyle diseases, stress is a factor.
This is because stress tends to make every health condition worse and it’s definitely a trigger for migraines of the chronic type. Physical stress may also play a role in the development of chronic migraines.
In addition, alterations to normal sleep patterns may make these headaches more likely.
Lastly, changes in weather do trigger these headaches in certain people. This can be due to changes in temperature and pressure, which you can learn more about by reading about barometric pressure headaches.
Treatment Options to Consider
When you suffer from constant headaches, you’ll be in a lot of discomfort, and will need something to help to relieve your pain.
One of the ways to treat these is with pharmaceuticals. This includes drugs which relieve discomfort, and are taken during flare-ups. This type of treatment works very well because they are formulated to stop symptoms quickly.
Examples include, but are not limited to, Excedrin Migraine, Advil and Tylenol.
On the other hand, as opposed to taking medication when you already feel a migraine, there is also a class of medications which are preventative. They are taken consistently over the long term in order to decrease chronic migraines in their frequency and severity.
Examples include Beta Blockers, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
The type of pain you experience, and the frequency, will determine what kind of medication will be best for you.
Chronic migraines may come in many different forms, so it’s important to note down your own particular symptoms so that you can consult with a medical professional about treatment.
This is because there are many different types of migraines, which include ocular migraines without headaches and scintillating scotoma. Another type of headache that you can read more about is ocular migraines.
In order to treat your own symptoms accordingly, you need to find out if you are suffering from the two ailments above, or whether your pain is caused by something else.
Either way, there are a variety of treatment options available for migraines today, so it’s just about finding out what is right for you.