The causes of migraines are better understood these days

August 06, 1991|By Alyssa Gabbay

Probably as old as the human race, the migraine headache is characterized by symptoms of throbbing head pain and nausea. Some sufferers see zigzag lines and bright pinwheels flashing across their field of vision -- otherwise known as an "aura" -- as an attack approaches. Often the pain strikes only one side of the head, although in some patients it affects both.

Once seen as a psychosomatic illness, the migraine is now recognized as a disorder of the brain function, which is usually inherited and which affects nearly every segment of the world's population. It is, however, more frequent in women than in men.

Migraine pain can vary from being so mild that "one wouldn't even bother to discuss it with one's spouse" to so acute it completely destroys quality of life, according to Dr. William Speed III, director of Speed Headache Associates of Baltimore.

Often, migraines are triggered by such factors as diet, weather, menstrual cycles and stress.

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