What Is A Migraine?
A migraine is a form of headache that involves severe throbbing or pulsing pain that is usually localized to one side of the head. Since the pain can be severe, it can often be accompanied by:
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Phonophobia (sensitivity to sound).
The attack can be incapacitating causing pain for hours and can go on as long as days. Some patients often experience aura (sort of like a premonition before the attack where they notice flashes of light or tingling on one side of the face). Migraines can be hereditary and often begin in childhood, adolescence, or early childhood.
Four Stages Of Migraines:
Migraine’s follow a consistent pattern in those who experience them. There are four stages which are outlined below:
You may notice subtle changes that may warn you of an upcoming episode. Some of these changes can include:
- Cravings for specific food
- Stiffness of the neck
- Increased fluid intake and urinary output
- Mood swings such as depression and euphoria
- Increased frequency of yawning
For some patients who experience migraines, they may or may not experience aura. Auras are symptoms of the nervous system where visual disturbances may occur. It can also involve sensory (touch), motor (movement) or verbal (speech) disruptions. Patients who experience aura may feel weak. Some of the examples of aura include:
- Visual phenomenon – bright spots of lights etcetera
- Loss of vision
- Numbness in the face or ipsilateral side of the body
- Speech difficulty
- Uncontrollable jerking or movements
An episode of migraine can last from 4-72 hours if untreated and the frequency of attacks can vary from person to person. Symptoms of a migraine attack include:
- Pain unilaterally or bilaterally on the head
- Throbbing or pulsing pain
- Photophobia, phonophobia and sensitivity to smells and touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- Affected vision
- Dizziness and occasionally fainting
This is the final phase that occurs after the migraine attack where those afflicted may feel lethargic and drained while some can feel energetic. The next 24 hours, affected patients can be:
- Dizzy or vertigo
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Photophobia and phonophobia
What Is Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that affects the nervous system leading to the urge to move the legs. Since it often interferes with sleep quality it can also be considered to be a sleep disorder. Some of the symptoms of restless legs syndrome are:
- Uncomfortable sensations in the legs (and also sometimes the arms or other body parts)
- Irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve the uncomfortable sensations
- The legs often feel uncomfortable, itchy, pins and needles and more.
These sensations are always worst at rest, which causes afflicted patients to wake up in the middle of the night to move their legs in order to relieve the uncomfortable sensation. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and come and go. Symptoms of RLS are often relieved by activity and exacerbated by long durations of rest. Patients tend to experience worse symptoms in the evening and night and the disruption of sleep can greatly affect their quality of life. Approximately 10% of Americans are affected although it is more common in women. RLS can start at any age, even in children but those affected are usually in their middle age or older. There are several causes of RLS and researchers have theorized that genes may play a role as about 50% of patients with RLS also have a family member affected by the condition. Some of the causes are:
- Chronic diseases – Iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, renal failure, can contribute to symptoms of RLS. However, the treatment of these conditions can provide some degree of relief for RLS.
- Medications – Antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, antiemetics, and even the common cold and allergy medications contain antihistamines that may aggravate the symptoms of RLS.
- Pregnancy – Some mothers can experience RLS during their gestation period, most commonly in the third trimester. After the delivery of the baby, symptoms of RLS tend to dissipate.
How Restless Legs Syndrome is Connected to Migraines And Tinnitus
Studies have proven that RLS has been found to be more common in patients who suffer from migraines compared to control populations. There are several hypotheses that have theorized the link between migraine and RLS. In some of these theories:
- Some have favored dopaminergic imbalance
- However, the dopaminergic agonists have opposing effects that may improve RLS and aggravate migraines.
- Dopaminergic antagonists are able to improve migraine symptoms.
Another explanation of the RLS and migraine connection might be due to the sleep disturbance which can act as a trigger for migraine. Although the exact mechanism is still yet to be clearly understood, how can the data collected be applied clinically? Should migraine patients be screened for RLS? Although there have been no new guidelines that recommend the screening of RLS in patients suffering from migraine, it would be good practice for clinicians to take notice of possible symptoms of insomnia in migraine patients, such as those with sleep disturbance or excessive daytime drowsiness. Currently, there has been available data that supported the improvement of migraines after the treatment of RLS.
Conclusion About Restless Legs Syndrome and Migraines
Although the exact mechanism of how RLS and migraines are linked, there has been sufficient data available that shows some association between the two disorders. At this point of time, researchers have recommended that more studies to be conducted at both the basic and clinical level to resolve all the outstanding questions. By conducting trials that help to understand better the connection of RLS symptoms and migraine, it may also be able to improve the treatment and management in patients who are affected.