If you’ve ever had a migraine, then you know just how debilitating and disabling intense head pain can be. Migraines can strike at any age, seniors included. Understanding your migraines and their causes is key to alleviating your symptoms in your older years.
What are migraines?
A migraine is much worse than a typical headache. It is a common neurological disorder that causes a variety of symptoms, most notably a throbbing, pulsing headache, usually on one side of your head. These headaches are often preceded by an aura—a cluster of symptoms such as tingling in the arm or leg and visual disturbances. Your migraine will likely get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds or smells. It may last a few hours or for several days.
Most people who suffer from migraines as younger adults notice a decline in the frequency of their migraines as they get older. When an older adult experiences a severe headache, it is sometimes associated with an injury or another medical condition.
These are called secondary headaches and may be associated with:
- Head trauma. Any accident that causes injury to the head can lead to severe headaches.
- Temporal arteritis (TA). This condition prompts the temporal arteries to swell and narrow, leading to migraines.
- Trigeminal neuralgia. This condition occurs when the trigeminal nerve that controls facial feeling is compressed, as a result causing intense facial and head pain.
- Stroke. Severe headaches or migraines often accompany s a stroke.
Tips for relieving your migraines.
If you experience migraines and your doctor has ruled out secondary causes, like head trauma or stroke, certain lifestyle changes may help alleviate the pain and reduce the frequency of your headaches:
- Get enough sleep
- Don’t skip meals and limit processed foods
- Drink plenty of water
- Stay physically active with low-impact exercises like walking and swimming
- Lower your stress levels by engaging in relaxing activities like journaling or yoga
- Avoid triggers like caffeine and alcohol
- Try alternative approaches like acupuncture and massage
- Talk to your doctor about medications designed to prevent or relieve the symptoms of migraines
When to talk to your doctor.
If you or your aging loved one has been experiencing chronic migraines, make an appointment with the doctor. Talk to your doctor about when you experience your migraines, common triggers and how long the migraines last. This can help your doctor better understand the cause of your headaches and the best course of treatment.
Severe headache symptoms that are sudden, new or cause neurological symptoms like dizziness, weakness, confusion or personality changes should also be evaluated by a doctor right away. New-onset headaches in older individuals are more likely to have serious underlying causes that warrant medical attention.
Migraines are debilitating and interfere with your life, no matter what your age. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and treat these intense headaches. Talk to your doctor about ongoing or new migraines and associated symptoms. With the right treatment plan, you can minimize or avoid headaches in the future and improve your overall quality of life.