Numbness in the hand, arm, face or tongue is a common sign of an imminent migraine attack. Once you experience an early warning sign, the migraine process is well underway, so it is important to know how to avoid your migraine triggers. Avoiding these triggers is the only way to prevent the migraine process from starting.
Things You'll Need
- Pen and paper for headache diary
Migraine headaches are the result of a complex process caused by the constriction and then dilation of blood vessels in the brain. A migraine is an intense headache lasting from 4 hours to 4 days. Its distinctive characteristics are a throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light or sound.
The migraine process begins when a trigger causes certain arteries in the brain to constrict, reducing the blood flow and oxygen supply. This constriction causes the characteristic numbness and other early signs of the migraine, called the aura.
The aura may consist of visual disturbances such as flashing lights or stars, halos around objects, blurred vision or even temporary loss of sight. In addition to numbness, sufferers may also experience tingling in the hands or tongue or a metallic taste. Other signs of an impending migraine are nasal congestion, excessive yawning and dizziness. However, most migraine sufferers do not experience any of these signs.
The most effective way to prevent migraine numbness, aura and headache is to recognize and avoid the triggers. Many factors may trigger the migraine process, and they are unique to each person and may even vary from migraine to migraine. The most common include:
• Foods, such as cheese, processed meats, soy products, wine (especially wine containing sulfates), and caffeine, although caffeine is effective in alleviating migraines in some people
• Environmental factors, such as weather changes or pollen
• Physical exertion, including intercourse, although regular exercise is recommended for migraine prevention
• Hormonal changes
• Lack of sleep
• Bright lights or glare
Changes in diet, adhering to regular sleep and meal schedules and establishing an exercise routine will help sufferers avoid attacks. Some triggers, such as weather or hormonal changes, are impossible to avoid.
A headache diary helps sufferers identify their own triggers. To be most helpful, a headache diary should include as much information as possible about the circumstances of each migraine attack, such as foods eaten shortly before the attack, activity, stress level and weather.
People who have more than three migraine attacks per month may consider daily preventative medication. Low doses of the antidepressant amitriptyline effectively reduces the incidence of migraine. People with allergies benefit from daily allergy medication or nasal spray.
Other daily preventative medications include beta blockers, anticonvulsants, serotonin antagonists or monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors.
Once a migraine starts, most sufferers will find relief by lying in a quiet, darkened room. Prescription medications are effective in relieving the headache. However, they are taken at the start of the headache, so they are ineffective in preventing numbness and aura.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep a detailed headache diary to track your migraine triggers. Get plenty of sleep. Eat regular meals. Avoid foods such as red wine, cheese, processed meat, chocolate or soy products that are common migraine triggers.
- If you have frequent headaches, see your doctor to rule out other neurological problems.
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