Despite those (and many other) daunting statistics, migraine is still widely misunderstood and frequently undiagnosed. And until quite recently the most commonly prescribed "remedy" for migraine was to lie in a dark room and wait for the pain to pass.
"It used to be that people with migraine were largely ignored and had to sequester themselves off someplace for hours or even days," said Juline Bryson, M.D., a neurologist and headache specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "But people who have migraine don't have to suffer. We have treatments that work, and even better ones are in the pipeline."
Thing - Migraine - Bryson - Headache - Rather
The first thing to realize about migraine, Bryson said, is that it's not just a bad headache. Rather, migraine is a complex neurological disorder that is genetic in nature.
"It's a strong hereditary trait," she said. "If one of your parents has migraine, there's a 50 percent chance you will, too. If both parents have it, there's a 75 percent chance."
People - Predisposition - Brain - Stimuli
In people who have this genetic predisposition to migraine the brain is abnormally sensitive to certain stimuli.
"When the brain is irritated it slows everything down, which is why people can't see clearly, feel clumsy, can't think straight, can't speak well, feel nauseous," Bryson explained. "Blood vessels get super-sensitive with increased blood flow, which causes throbbing pain.
Nerve - Nerve - Sides - Head - Sensations
"And the trigeminal nerve [the large nerve on both sides of the head that supplies sensations to the head and face and controls the muscles used in biting and chewing] flips out and sends all sorts of pain signals."
Not all migraine attacks are the same -- some, for example, are preceded by visual disturbances called aura -- nor are the triggers that initiate them.
Migraine - Sign - Bruise - Rash - X-ray
And because migraine doesn't produce a visible sign like a bruise or rash and can't be detected by an X-ray or other imaging technique, doctors...
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