No one fully knows the cause of migraine headaches, though likely candidates include biochemical imbalances in the brain, hormonal changes during menopause, stress, and certain audio-visual stimuli such as bright lights or noises. Whatever the causes, the throbbing pain, nausea and sensitivity make even mundane tasks difficult to complete. Treatment for a migraine runs the gamut from simple home remedies to prescription medication.
Use acute treatments only when the migraine itself has manifested, as a means of reducing the symptoms. Medication options include over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen. Look for those labeled as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which the Mayo Clinic recommends for cases of migraine headaches. Other medications can include triptans (such as Frova and Amerge), ergotamine (such as Cafergot) and butalbital combinations (such as Butapap). Always speak to your doctor before taking any of these medications; many of them have side effects and may react badly to other medications you're taking.
Preventative medication is designed to reduce the number of migraines and limit their effects when they do. Depending upon your case, you might take preventative medicine every day, or only when a particular trigger will appear. The most common are beta blockers, normally used for high blood pressure, but also effective in dealing with migraines. Other cardiovascular drugs such as Calan, Isoptin and Zestril, have proven effective as well. Certain types of tricyclic anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications like Topamax also work to prevent migraine headaches, though as always you should speak to your doctor before taking them.
In addition to formal medication, you can adopt a number of home remedies to reduce the severity of a migraine headache. Avoid undue stress in your life and lighten your workload if you feel a migraine coming on. Take regular rests in a quiet, dark place where you don't have a lot of distractions. Put a cool washcloth on the back of your head , or press and hold the two pressure points at the base of your skull for about a minute or so.
Various types of vitamins can help a migraine headache as well -- including niacin, choline, C and B6 -- as can healthy food such as fruit or a natural drink. In some cases, a long bath or shower will help relax your muscles, reducing the severity of the migraine pain. Avoid exercising while you have a migraine -- the pounding blood will make it worse -- and stay away from any area that contains bright or flashing lights.