What are the symptoms and medications for migraines?

There are several types of migraines, and as stated by Rachel Alex, the symptoms can differ significantly among people who have them.

Symptoms often occur in 3 stages: before an attack, during an attack and after an attack.

"Before" symptoms may include constipation, food cravings, low mood, hyperactivity, irritability, yawning, neck stiffness and aura.  Aura refers to a collection of neurological impairments such as slurred speech, vision changes/loss, pins-and-needles sensations in the limbs.  "During" symptoms may include intense headache (often one-sided), nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound and odours, lightheadedness/fainting, blurred vision.  It is possible to have an attack that does not include headache (silent migraine).  "After" symptoms are primarily fatigue and feeling drained.

There are many types of medications that can be used; the type of migraine will influence what will be recommended.  The meds usually fall into one of two categories: those used to stop the attack, and those used to prevent one. 

In addition to the narcotics mentioned by Rachel, and acetaminophen/NSAID pain-relievers referred to by Peter Warne, ibuprofen, ASA and indomethacin are also commonly used.  Other meds may be prescribed to control nausea and inflammation.  The main classes of meds used to prevent migraines are triptans and ergotamines.

There are also a number of natural approaches that may be used to prevent migraines:
  • hydration (inadequate hydration increases susceptibility)
  • stress management (stress is often a trigger)
  • food avoidance - especially those that contain the amino acid tyramine (aged cheeses and meats, smoked fish, cured meats, beer)
  • nutrient supplementation (vitamins B2 and B6, and magnesium)
  • deep breathing exercises

You might want to review information from these studies with respect to non-pharmaceutical therapies:

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