Migraine headache is a common neurological condition that occurs in about 20% of the population. It is not clear how a migraine works, but it is believed that the basic cause is an abnormality of serotonin, which is a chemical used by the brain cells. During a migraine, changes in serotonin levels cause the blood vessels in the brain to constrict. This decreases oxygen supply in the brain.
Certain foods like aged cheese, chocolate, red wine, and caffeine may trigger migraines. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause, and menstrual periods also are associated with migraines. People with migraines often have a family history of headaches or prior histories of motion sickness.
Symptoms of migraines include nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, pounding pain, and some visual symptoms, including a blurred spot in the field of vision, seeing zigzag lines or shimmering lights.
Treatment is first aimed at determining the factors that may precipitate a migraine. These include environmental factors, medications, and food. There are medications available that will help mitigate the symptoms of a migraine. If migraines are occurring frequently then medication may be prescribed that is taken on a regular basis.