February 27, 2011
ISSUE Millions of people with migraine lead lives filled with pain and unpredictablity. It need not be so. Preventive medicine can work wonders, say doctors.
“It’s a headache like no other. My migraine attack would start with the flashing of lights in one corner of the eye, vision distortion and sensitivity to light — so much so that even light from a cell phone would be difficult to handle. Only sleep could make me feel better. Migraine is so different from regular headaches. It is unacceptable to describe all headaches as migraines,” says marketing professional Nirupam Srikanth (name changed), who has frequent bouts of migraine.
The term migraine is derived from the Greek word hemikranios, meaning “half head”. But, there is much more to it than just a pain in the head. Describing the condition, R. Pazhani, a senior consultant neurologist, says: “Migraine is usually an episodic headache with or without nausea, photophobia, phonophobia or aura. It is caused by a disturbance in brain function. The headache occurs as a result of stimulation of specific nerve endings on the arterial walls in the meninges (the membranes that envelop the central nervous system).”
Types of migraine
Of the two main types of migraine — migraine without aura (common migraine) is often associated with nausea and vomiting and a headache that may be aggravated by light, sound or physical exertion. Migraine with aura (classic migraine) is accompanied by spots, jagged lines, or scintillating images.
“Often, these phenomena are at first localised in the lateral field of vision, but may migrate and sometimes result in impaired vision. The aura commonly precedes the headache and, in most cases, completely resolves before the onset of headache. There are other variant (but rarer) forms as well — from retinal migraine to ice pick migraine to hemiplegic migraine,” says Dr. Pazhani.