Complications, Diagnosis and Prevention of Migraines

A migraine headache is the result of specific physiologic changes that occur within the brain and lead to sever pain with associated symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

Updated: August 17, 2020

A migraine headache is the result of specific physiologic changes that occur within the brain and lead to severe pain with associated symptoms of nausea or vomiting.


Complications of Migraines:

Complications of migraines include:

Medication-overuse headaches:

Medication-overuse headaches occur when medications begin to cause headaches instead of stop relieving pain. Any headache medication either over-the-counter or prescription, if taken more than 10 days a month for three months or in high doses may trigger serious medication-overuse headaches.

Abdominal problems:

Certain pain killers such as ibuprofen if taken in large doses or for a long period of time may cause abdominal pain, bleeding, ulcers, and other complications.

Chronic migraine:

Chronic migraines last for 15 or more days a month for more than three months.

Serotonin Syndrome :

When your body has too much of the nervous system chemical called serotonin a life-threatening condition occurs which is known as serotonin syndrome. Migraine medications called triptans and antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome by raising serotonin levels. While using triptans and SSRIs or SNRIs together it is important to watch out for possible symptoms of serotonin syndrome such as changes in cognition, behavior, and muscle control such as involuntary jerking.

Status migrainosus:

This will have severe migraine attacks that last for longer than three days.

Persistent aura without infarction:

A persistent aura lasts for more than one week after the migraine attack. This will have similar symptoms as a stroke but without signs of bleeding in the brain, tissue damage, or other problems.

Migrainous infarction:

Bleeding in the brain occurs due to loss of blood supply to an area of the brain.


Diagnosis of Migraines:

Migraines can be diagnosed based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical and neurological examination. If your condition is unusual, complex, or suddenly becomes severe some more tests should be conducted to rule out other possible causes for your pain.

These test can be:

Blood tests:

A blood test can be done to test for blood vessel problems, infections in your spinal cord or brain, and toxins in your system.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan:

Detailed cross-sectional images of the brain can be created by using a CT scan. This helps diagnose tumors, infections, brain damage, bleeding in the brain, and other possible medical problems that may be causing headaches.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and blood vessels. MRI scans help diagnose tumors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, infections, and other neurological conditions.

Lumbar puncture or Spinal tap:

If infections or bleeding in the brain is suspected a lumbar puncture test is recommended. In this test, a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in the lower back to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to analyze in a lab.


Prevention of Migraines:

Some common migraine triggers can not be avoided  and also avoidance is not effective always. But some of these lifestyle changes may help you reduce the severity of your migraines:

Exercise regularly:

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, and cycling reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. Warm-up slowly because sudden and intense exercise can cause headaches.

Create a consistent daily schedule:

Follow a daily routine with regular sleep patterns and regular meals.

Avoid estrogen medications:

As estrogen trigger or make your headaches worse, you should avoid or reduce the medications that contain estrogen if you are women. These medications include oral contraceptives pills and hormone replacement therapy.

Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS):

This device is similar to a headband with attached electrodes which can be used as a preventive therapy for migraines.


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