The pain of a migraine headache is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. It is often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Some individuals can predict the onset of a migraine because it is preceded by an "aura," visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines or a temporary loss of vision. People with migraine tend to have recurring attacks triggered by a lack of food or sleep, exposure to light, or hormonal irregularities (only in women). Anxiety, stress, or relaxation after stress can also be triggers. For many years, scientists believed that migraines were linked to the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the head. Investigators now believe that migraine is caused by inherited abnormalities in genes that control the activities of certain cell populations in the brain.

There are two ways to approach the treatment of migraine headache with drugs: prevent the attacks, or relieve the symptoms during the attacks. Many people with migraine use both approaches by taking medications originally developed for epilepsy and depression to prevent future attacks, and treating attacks when they happen with drugs called triptans that relieve pain and restore function. Hormone therapy may help some women whose migraines seem to be linked to their menstrual cycle. Stress management strategies, such as exercise, relaxation, biofeedback, and other therapies designed to help limit discomfort, may also reduce the occurrence and severity of migraine attacks.

Taking a combination of drugs to prevent and treat migraine attacks when they happen helps most people with migraine to limit the disabling effects of these headaches. Women whose migraine attacks occur in association with their menstrual cycle are likely to have fewer attacks and milder symptoms after menopause.

Prepared by the National Institutes of Health

Migraine Discussions

  1. link Ninabobeana1
    What to do for an on going migraine headache.
    I have been having migraines, on the right side of my head in the temple area, for months now. The sad thing is that they are there day in, and day ou - 85% more...
    Ninabobeana1- over a year ago - 1 Reply - in Migraine
  2. link Sisree
    Brain hemorrhage and migraines?
    in Dec 2004 I suffered a sub-arachnoid brain hemorrhage. Since then i have had severe migraines everyday-much worse than the migraines i had Before th - 70% more...
    Sisree- over a year ago - in Migraine
  3. link Dawn689
    Chronic daily Migraines
    I have suffered from migraines since I was a young child.. When I was around 16yrs old or so, the Doctor had a cat scan done.. I guess this was to mak - 82% more...
    Dawn689- over a year ago - 12 Replies - in Migraine
  4. link Vila
    studies affected by migraine....
    hi......i hv beeb suffer migraine since child I will vomit and cant eat anything if migraine attack me ..... plz gv sm tips to avoid migraine coz i am - 27% more...
    Vila- over a year ago - 1 Reply - in Migraine
  5. link Tammiej
    seisures due to migraines
    my 22 year old daughter has recently been told she has a condition called migrilepsy. Seizure-like activity caused by the intense pain of her migraine - 18% more...
    Tammiej- over a year ago - 1 Reply - in Migraine
[ Read more Migraine posts ]