A migraine headache is a form of vascular headache. Migraine headache is caused by the enlargement of blood vessels, causing the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the large arteries of the brain. This enlargement stretches the nerves around the blood vessels, causing the release of chemicals that cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery.


Classic migraine attacks start with visual symptoms, such as zigzag colored lights or flashes of light expanding to one side over 10–30 minutes, followed by a pounding severe headache sometimes associated with nausea, vomiting and light-sensitivity. Some patients experience the visual symptoms of classic migraine without a headache. This condition is called migrainous visual aura without headache.


There are various foods that may trigger a migraine attack. These include aged cheese, nitrates found in cured meats and other processed foods, chocolate, red wine and monosodium glutamate. Hormonal changes and stress also are frequently associated with migraine.

Treatment Options

The easiest way to avoid a migraine is to avoid foods, medications and environmental items, such as perfume, known to precipitate an attack. Sometimes over-the-counter pain medications relieve symptoms during an attack. If migraine is frequent and severe, medications may be taken on a regular basis to decrease the frequency and severity of attacks.

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