Any type of pain that incapacitates one from doing everyday tasks can be debilitating to the body and self. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines are ranked to be in the world’s top twenty most disabling medical illnesses (n.d.). “Migraines have been estimated to affect 8.7 million women and 2.6 million men in the United States at an estimated cost of 6.5 to 17.2 billion dollars a year” (Kinart, Cuppett, & Berg, 2002). Many doctors cannot pinpoint the cause of migraines in any particular individual because of chemical differences in all of us, but they have come up with certain facts that have helped some. This paper demonstrates a brief history of migraines, the symptoms of this disorder, what happens in the central nervous system, treatment for this disorder and finally a summation.
The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines migraine as, “A severe recurring headache, usually affecting only one side of the head, that is characterized by sharp pain and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances. Also called hemicrania, megrim, [and] sick headach” (n.d.). Migraine is a French word which came from the Latin word hemicrania and a more commonly used word hemicranium after a series of changes from the Medieval Latin of the following words hemigranea, hemigrania, migranea, migrana; these Latin terms were borrowed from the Greek word hemicrania to begin with (Lardreau, 2012). Migraines were once considered to be a pain caused by the constriction or expansion of blood vessels, but now new research has made it evident that it could be neurogenic and they are dependent on signals from the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve delivers sensation to most of the head including the meninges, skin, cornea, sinuses, and teeth. When pain sensors are active within the trigeminal nerve, it can then trigger constriction or expansion of blood vessels. The connection between trigeminal activation and the reaction of the cranial blood vessels is called trigeminovascular pathway (Werner, 2013).
At early childhood both boys and girls can get migraines and at the same rate. At puberty, girls tend to get more migraines than the boys. Then, at adulthood, women are three times more likely to get migraines than men; researchers cannot say why this leap is so great but they don’t think it has to do with female hormones since men still get migraines. However, they do believe estrogen or a fluctuation of hormones is a trigger that causes an intensity of pain in some women when they are menstruating, pregnant, or menopausal. Although for some women menopause has taken their migraines away, doctors still do not believe it is the cause of the greater rate; that is yet to be explained (Tepper, 2004). There have been few documented studies about migraines and race, so it is difficult to state which race it affects more without more facts. There is evidence that migraines are genetic (Tepper, 2004).