Migraine: A Brief Explanation of the Syndrome and its Affects

Neurologist and lawyer Dr. James C Johnston is a consultant for GlobalNeurology, an independent organization that focuses exclusively on neuroscience. Dr. James C Johnston aids the organization by providing consultation services regarding a variety of neurological afflictions and diseases, such as headaches.

Migraine headaches are one of the most common headache disorders. Significantly more problematic than a tension or muscle contraction headache, migraines involve a constellation of severe neurological symptoms that result in debilitating pain and discomfort. Attacks can last between 4 and 72 hours. Associated head pains typically occur on only one side, although one in three attacks will cause pain on both sides. Additional symptoms vary and include nausea, vomiting, visual disturbance, and visual and aural hypersensitivity. Classified as a syndrome by neurologists, migraines vary from person to person.

Migraines affect over 10 percent of the total US population. Over 90 percent of patients diagnosed with a migraine cannot work or perform everyday functions during attacks and approximately 10 percent of school-age children experience migraines. Additionally, individuals with chronic migraine often experience depression, sleep deprivation, and anxiety as a result of the syndrome’s severity and unpredictability. While some individuals may have one or two attacks each month, others will suffer attacks at least 15 days per month.

There has been significant improvement in the treatment of migraines over the recent years. Before its recognition as a legitimate ailment, doctors believed migraines resulted from a psychiatric condition. Researchers today theorize migraine is related to nerve pathway and brain chemical issues. Current treatments focus on relieving symptoms, reducing attack intensity and frequency, and preventative measures such as exercise, proper diet, and relaxation techniques.

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