Student Health Office
Self Help Guide
Common Health Problems
The symptoms of migraines can be variable, but often they begin as a dull ache and develop into a throbbing pain. The pain is usually aggravated by activity. Associated symptoms of migraine headaches include:
- Sensitivity to light, noise and odors
- Nausea and vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sensations of being very warm or cold
- Blurred vision
Types of migraine headaches
- Migraine with aura (Classic Migraine): This type is usually preceded by an aura. Most often, an aura is a visual disturbance (outlines of lights or jagged light images). Auras can also be changes in smell, taste, or other sensation.
- Migraine without aura (Common Migraine): This type accounts for 80% of migraine headaches. There is no aura before a common migraine.
- Status migrainosus: This is the term used to describe a long lasting migraine that does not go away on its own.
The exact causes of migraine headaches are unknown, but the headaches are linked to changes in the brain as well as to genetic causes. People with migraines may inherit the tendency to be affected by certain triggers, such as fatigue, bright lights, and weather changes. Additional possible triggers include:
- Emotional stress
- Sensitivity to specific chemicals and preservatives in food. (Aged cheeses; alcoholic beverages; processed meats; monosodium glutamate. Caffeine may precipitate, or in some cases relieve migraines.)
- Changing weather conditions, storm fronts, barometric pressure changes, strong winds, altitude changes.
- Menstrual periods
- Excessive fatigue
- Skipping meals
- Changes in normal sleep patterns
Mild to moderate migraines can often be handled by:
- Applying a cold compress to the area of pain.
- Resting with pillows comfortably supporting the head and neck.
- Drinking a moderate amount of caffeine.
- Trying certain over the counter medications. (Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, sometimes with caffeine).
- Resting in a room with little or no sensory stimulation (light, sound, odors).
- Withdrawing from stressful surroundings.
When these measures do not help, migraine headaches may be eased with a prescription medication. Please make an appointment to be seen at the Student Health Office (x6418) for migraine medication plan.
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