Migraines In The Elderly, Is It Really Brain Trauma?
Migraines are some of the worst pain a human being can ever experience. It can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
A migraine attack causes significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling. The best thing that can be said about a migraine is at least you a warning that an attack is on the way.
Warning symptoms can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.
Migraines often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, and may even occur in aged adults. More about that soon. Often times you will get a warning one or two days before. Some of these warning signs are:a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including:
- Mood changes, from depression to euphoria
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Increased thirst and urination
- Frequent yawning
Migraines differ from headaches in the following ways:
- Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
- Vision loss
- Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
- Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking
- Hearing noises or music
- Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
The causes are unknown but scientists do have some hypotheses.
The trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway might be impaired through changes in the brainstem and its pathways.
Another source may be imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system.
For example, serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal nerve to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain’s outer covering. The result is migraine pain.
There are a variety of medications on the market.
Take pain-relieving drugs as soon as you experience signs or symptoms of a migraine for the best results. It may help if you rest or sleep in a dark room after taking them. Medications include:
- Aspirin may help relieve mild migraines.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), also may help relieve mild migraines in some people.
If taken too often or for long periods of time, these medications can lead to ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and medication-overuse headaches.
The prescription pain reliever indomethacin may help thwart a migraine and is available in suppository form, which may be helpful if you’re nauseated.
Anti-nausea medications include Reglan and Compro.
Opioid medications contain narcotics, particularly codeine, and are sometimes prescribed. However, they are habit forming and therefore can only be used on a short term basis.
Prednisone and dexamethasone are steroids and therefore also, only a short term option. It may be used with other medications to improve pain relief, but frequent use will cause side affects.
Migraines: Do Seniors Suffer From It?
In a senior citizen, the same severe symptoms of migraines that appear in younger adults can indicate serious illness in a senior. For example if your aged loved one complains of the following, call your doctor or get to an emergency room, immediately.
Headaches commonly accompany stroke. In a study of 163 patients who’d had a stroke, 60% reported a headache with the stroke, especially women and those with a history of headaches. Up to 46% reported having an incapacitating headache; most said the headache was mild to moderately painful. The headaches are equally likely to come on quickly or slowly.
Although there are many causes of head trauma, falling is a particular problem. Approximately 30% of people ages 65 and older fall at least once a year. If the person has dementia, he might not remember having fallen.
Subdural hematomas, or bleeding on the brain, can result from a mild head injury. These brain traumas can be life-threatening or go away on their own. Don’t disregard them.
Headaches are present in up to 90% of patients with head trauma, including subdural hematomas. The headaches can range from mild to severe, can be intermittent or constant, and can happen on one or both sides of the head. Coughing, straining, or exercise can make them worse, and sometimes there’s vomiting and nausea.
Headaches are the most common symptom of temporal (giant cell) arteritis, or TA. This is a disease that causes your arteries to swell and narrow. It usually happens to the large and medium-sized arteries that run along both sides of your head.
TA is most common in people older than age 50. The headache pain is described most often as throbbing, and may be intermittent or constant. The headache can be on one or both sides of the head, typically near the temples. But it can be over the forehead or even the back of the head. About half of the people with TA also get bad pain in the jaw with chewing. Left untreated it can lead to a stroke and/or heart attack.
Therefore, if your aged love one complains of a headache; no matter the severity, get it checked out immediately.