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Types of Migraines continued...

There are also auras that can affect the other senses. These auras can be described simply as having a "funny feeling," or the person may not be able to describe the aura. Other auras may include ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or having changes in smell (such as strange odors), taste, or touch.

Rare migraine conditions include these types of neurological auras:

Hemiplegic migraine. Temporary paralysis (hemiplegia) or nerve or sensory changes on one side of the body (such as muscle weakness). The onset of the headache may be associated with temporary numbness, dizziness, or vision changes. These need to be differentiated from a stroke.

Retinal migraine. Temporary, partial, or complete loss of vision in one eye, along with a dull ache behind the eye that may spread to the rest of the head.

Basilar artery migraine. Dizziness, confusion, or loss of balance can precede the headache. The headache pain may affect the back of the head. These symptoms usually occur suddenly and can be associated with the inability to speak properly, ringing in the ears, and vomiting. This type of migraine is strongly related to hormonal changes and primarily affects young adult women.

Status migrainosus. A rare and severe type of migraine that can last 72 hours or longer. The pain and nausea are so intense that people who have this type of headache often need to be hospitalized. Certain medications, or medication withdrawal, can cause this type migraine syndrome.

Ophthalmoplegic migraine. Pain around the eye, including paralysis in the muscles surrounding the eye. This is an emergency medical condition, as the symptoms can also be caused by pressure on the nerves behind the eye or an aneurysm. Other symptoms of ophthalmoplegic migraines include droopy eyelid, double vision, or other vision changes. Fortunately, this is a rare form of migraine.

Migraines without auras are more common, occurring in 80% to 85% of migraine sufferers. Several hours before the onset of the headache, the person can experience vague symptoms, including:

How Are Migraines Treated?

There is no cure for migraines. However, there are many drugs available to treat or even prevent some migraines. Some people may also reduce the frequency of migraines by identifying and avoiding triggers that lead to the migraine such as drinking red wine or getting too little sleep (see the triggers above).

  • Pain relief. Over-the-counter drugs are often effective pain relievers for some people with migraines. The main ingredients in pain-relieving medications are ibuprofen (for example, Motrin), aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and caffeine. Be cautious when taking over-the-counter pain-relieving medications because sometimes they can contribute to a headache, or their overuse can cause rebound headaches or a dependency problem. If you are taking any over-the-counter pain medications more than three times a week or daily, it's time to see your doctor. He or she can suggest prescription medications that may be more effective.
  • Anti-nausea drugs. Your doctor can prescribe medication to relieve the nausea that often accompanies migraines.
  • Abortive medicines (stop migraines). There are some special medications that if used at the first sign of a migraine, may stop the process that causes the headache pain. These medications can also stop the headache pain itself. By stopping the headache process, these drugs help prevent the symptoms of migraines, including pain, nausea, light-sensitivity, etc. The medicine works by constricting the blood vessels, bringing them back to normal, and relieving the throbbing pain.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback helps people learn to recognize stressful situations that trigger migraines. If the migraine begins slowly, many people can use biofeedback to stop the attack before it becomes full blown.
  • Magnetic stimulation. The Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) is a prescription device placed on the back of the head at the onset of a migraine with aura. It then releases a pulse of magnetic energy and stimulates part of the brain, which may stop or lessen pain.

All of these treatments should be used under the direction of a headache specialist or doctor familiar with migraine treatments. As with any medication, it is important to carefully follow the label instructions and your doctor's advice.

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