Chronic headaches and migraines can be incredibly painful and debilitating. They can cause intense throbbing of one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Unfortunately, they can last for days and can cause pain so severe, that you are unable to complete your daily activities.
The main features of AFP are: no objective signs, negative results with all investigations/ tests, no obvious explanation for the cause of the pain, and a poor response to attempted treatments. AFP has been described variably as a medically unexplained symptom, a diagnosis of exclusion, a psychogenic cause of pain (e.g. a manifestation of somatoform disorder), and as a neuropathy. AFP is usually burning and continuous in nature, and may last for many years. Depression and anxiety are often associated with AFP, which are either described as a contributing cause of the pain, or the emotional consequences of suffering with unrelieved, chronic pain. For unknown reasons, AFP is significantly more common in middle aged or elderly people, and in females.
A Deeper Look
Migraines often begin before or during early adulthood. These severe headaches may progress through four stages, though not all sufferers go through them all. The four stages are prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome.
Prodrome: This stage occurs in the one or two days before a migraine and is characterized by warning signs that an attack is about to occur. These signs include:
- Mood swings
- Neck stiffness
- Food cravings
- Frequent yawning
- Intense thirst
Aura: For some people, aura occurs during or just before a migraine. Aura is a reversible symptom of the nervous symptom. They are most often visual, but can affect other senses as well, and can last from 20 to 60 minutes. Some examples of aura include:
- Seeing shapes or bright flashes or orbs of light
- Vision loss
- Numbness or weakness in one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking
- Uncontrollable jerking or movement
- Pins and Needles sensation in the arm or leg
- Hearing noises or music where there is none
Attack: A migraine can last anywhere from four to 72 hours if left untreated. The frequency of these attacks vary from person to person. Some may experience them very rarely, while others may get them several times each month. During an attack, you may experience:
Throbbing or pulsing head pain Sensitivity to light and sound Nausea Vomitting
Post-drome: After an attack, many patients report feeling exhausted, confused or drained for up to a day, while others report feeling extreme happiness. Sudden head movement may also cause the pain to return momentarily during post-drome.
What Causes Migraines?
While the underlying causes of migraines still remain unclear, both genetic and environmental factors seem to play a role. Researchers are still performing tests and studies to pinpoint the exact cause of migraines, though there is evidence to support that an imbalance of serotonin may cause them, as well as changes in the brainstem.
Migraines also seem to affect certain people more than others. Women are three times more likely to suffer from chronic migraines than men. Those with a family history of migraines are more likely to experience them. And while migraines tend to begin early in life, they often peak around the 30’s before they weaken.
Even though the exact biological cause still is not clear, there are a variety of migraine triggers to look out for, including:
- Hormone imbalance in women
- Drinks: such as too much caffeine or alcohol
- Loss of sleep
- Processed foods and additives
- Overstimulation, such as bright lights or loud sounds
- Changes in weather or barometric pressure
- Medications, such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators
Migraines often go undiagnosed and untreated. If you are regularly experiencing migraines and severe headaches, your doctor can help. Keep a record of your attacks, including how long they last. Then make an appointment with your physician. Once you are seen by your doctor, he or she can determine the best treatment plan and rule out any other medical causes.