The surge of research on migraines in recent years is certainly making headway, yet there’s still a long way to get to the bottom of what causes the condition. If you or anyone you know has ever had a migraine, you’ll be well aware that it’s not “just a headache.” It’s a debilitating condition that often sends people to the ER.
Migraines are a significant cause of disability, missed work, and emergency room visits, and are much more common in the active working years (ages 15-55). In fact, they have led to an estimated lost productivity of $5.6 billion because of missed work and restricted activity. One third of patients require bed rest during a headache, and astonishingly, women are two to three times more likely to experience a migraine (with hormones likely playing a key role in this).
Doctors diagnose migraines clinically. They listen to a patient and base the diagnosis almost solely on their symptoms. There are no imaging or blood tests that can confirm the diagnosis of a migraine, though we do often get pictures of the brain and run other tests to make sure we’re not missing something more serious, like an aneurysm or a tumor.
A person having at least five painful attacks, lasting from four hours to three days. Symptoms can include any two out of these four qualities:
The person may also experience nausea or vomiting, and sensitivity to light or noise. Other factors, such as bleeding in the brain, doesn’t usually explain these migraines.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of mystery around what causes migraines. What is clear is that migraines are often hereditary, and have a genetic component. There are also some theories that explain the pain pathways that occur during a migraine:
Understandably, many patients that experience symptoms of migraines go to an emergency room or see their primary care doctor. Often they’ll get treatment that puts them to sleep, or are told to see a specialist — which can mean months-long wait times. However, consulting an online specialist like those at Modern Migraine MD is a much faster way for a specialized doctor to assess your symptoms, schedule follow ups, and get you on the right track for migraine care.