Senator John McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, was on the Today show this morning to reveal that she has been suffering with migraine headaches for many years. She hopes that her coming forward will increase public awareness about the disease and to encourage research into the disease. McCain will be addressing the International Headache Congress this week in Philadelphia. “I’m one of the millions who suffer,” she told Today‘s Matt Lauer. “It’s time for us to shake things up a bit.”
What is a Migraine Headache?
A migraine headache is a severe headache, usually described as throbbing, or pulsing. It most commonly occurs on one side of the head, and is felt to be coming from behind the eye, temple or ear. It can last anywhere from four to seventy-two hours, and interferes with daily activity. It is frequently associated with nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. About one in five migraine sufferers have what has been called classic migraine (now called migraine with aura). These patients can tell that their headache is coming by experiencing an aura 10 to 30 minutes before the onset of the headache. An aura is an unusual sensory perception which can be visual, olfactory or non-visual. Visual auras are most common and are described as seeing wavy or zigzag lines or flashing lights. Non-visual auras include motor weakness, speech or language abnormalities, dizziness, vertigo, and tingling or numbness of the face, tongue, or extremities.
Migraines affect 30 million people in the US, beginning at age 10 and decreasing after age 50.
It used to be thought that migraines were caused by dilation (opening) of blood vessels in the head, but more recent research shows that migraines may be related to genes that control the activity of some brain cells. Even though the cause be not be known, certain things have been found to trigger migraine headaches. These include stress, hormonal changes, certain foods (alcohol, caffeine, cheese, chocolate), sleep deprivation, and sensory stimuli such as bright lights or sun glare.
Treatment is either symptomatic- over the counter pain relievers or prescription medications such as Imitrex, designed to stop an migraine in progress, or preventive- avoidance of known triggers, and certain medications (beta blockers, antidepressives, anti-seizure medications) taken on a daily basis to prevent migraines from starting.
What is the difference between a migraine and a tension headache?
National Women’s Health Information Center)
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