Migraines, not just a ‘headache’

The headache is often accompanied by other key symptoms including feelings of nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Representative Image
Representative Image

CHENNAI: Migraine is a neurological disease, commonly characterised by a pulsing, severe pain in one side of the head. The headache is often accompanied by other key symptoms including feelings of nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Such migraine attacks can last for hours to days and the pain can be so intense that it has a taxing impact on the overall quality of life. In India, more than 213 million people suffer from this disease. Notably, in South India, the prevalence of migraine is around 25.2 per cent, which is alarmingly high. However, despite prevalence migraine remains poorly understood and misdiagnosed.

People often neglect a migraine attack and tend to pass it off as ‘just a headache.’ Leaving it untreated can have profound detrimental effects on one’s quality of life.

Migraine patients are often misdiagnosed with certain chronic and mild conditions with symptoms similar to those of migraine, which further delays their treatment:

Tension headaches characterised by symptoms like photophobia, nausea, incessant pain in the head, as the name suggests – are stress induced. Chronic tension headaches can gradually result in migraine over time.

Conditions such as dry eyes, injury to the eye, degenerative eye disease, uncorrected nearsightedness and farsightedness, lead to headaches, it is commonly mistaken with migraine. It is necessary to consult a neurologist if the symptoms prevail even after adequate rest and rehabilitation. Several migraine patients feel that they are experiencing a sinus headache. A person can distinguish between a sinus headache and a migraine based on the duration of headaches – the former lasts only if a sinus infection prevails; migraines are recurring.

Migraine patients commonly experience vertebral pain and headaches. Poor posture and shoulder tension can be a cause of long desk hours or sitting in uncomfortable positions. However, the person must keep an eye out for migraine-specific symptoms like nausea, vomiting, photosensitivity, etc.

Migraine can be managed with right treatment plan and a few mindful lifestyle changes.

Dr AV Srinivasan, senior neurologist, president of Indian Academy Neurology (2017)

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