History is replete with migraine sufferers: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis Carroll, Vincent Van Gogh, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley. Present day sufferers include former quarterback Troy Aikman, tennis star Serena Williams, Janet Jackson, Michelle Bachmann and Ben Affleck. While the malady affects women much more than men, all migraine patients experience misery when an attack strikes. While doctors remain unclear about the causes, they are learning more.
Previous studies showed that migraine was due to abnormalities in the blood vessels that allowed them to swell. However, according to latest reports migraine sufferers are susceptible to various triggering mechanisms because of an underlying central nervous system (CNS) disorder.
These triggers, which can include stress, fermented foods, chocolate and sleep disruption cause the release of protein fragments in the body that dilate blood vessels in the head. This allows an inflammation system that overexcites nerves in that region. Scientists believe that the neurotransmitter, serotonin, plays a part in migraines. There is also evidence that reduced levels of magnesium may trigger headaches by causing nerves to misfire. Rat models show that after a five-day deficiency of magnesium, an inflammatory process begins in the nerve tissue. Researchers also find evidence that calcium transport channels in cells play a part. For women, estrogen fluctuations can trigger migraines.
While it may be difficult or impossible to change the underlying CNS disorder, scientists are looking for ways to reduce or prevent the inflammatory process that causes incapacitation of the sufferer. Some physicians recommend that sufferers supplement their diet with daily doses of magnesium to ensure that a deficiency does not play a role in their migraines. All physicians recommend a stress management routine for migraine patients.
[Photo Credit: jurvetson on Flickr]