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Understanding migraines in 3 minutes

An overview of pediatric migraines. Types, factors and prevention.

We sat with Dr Amaury Salavert, an authority in pediatric migraines, for a 5min exchange on migraines.

This is part 1 where we discuss the various types of migraines, their factors and how to prevent them. For migraines treatments, see part 2.


Dr. Amauri, thank you very much for taking time to sit with us. Let's talk about migraines, what is your experience with them?

Thanks for having me back. I have extensive experience studying and treating pediatric migraines. At Trousseau Hospital I have consulted with hundreds of patients with migraines.

Are migraines that common?

Yes they are very common. I'd say 10% of children aged 10 have migraines, this number increases to 20% at age 20.

What are the various types of migraines and what are the symptoms?

Migraines in children can be categorized into two main types: migraines without aura and migraines with aura. Symptoms of these migraines include a strong headache that prevents the child from doing anything, nausea and/or vomiting, photophobia or phono phobia, paleness, tiredness, dark circles under the eyes, abdominal pain, and difficulty moving. Other symptoms may also be present, but are not considered defining characteristics of migraines.

Any symptoms specific to migraines with aura?

Yes, symptoms of an aura migraine can include blurred vision, seeing shiny objects or seeing colored spots. Additionally, other senses can be affected, such as hearing, feeling tingling in the fingers, feet, or tongue. These symptoms are specific to pediatric patients.

Do we know why children and not adults have these kind of migraines?

It has been observed that children may experience auras with colors, whereas adults may experience more black spots. Migraines are hereditary and recent research has suggested that they may be related to the brain's construction. So probably because of the latter.

How do you differentiate between migraines and headaches?

It is important to note that there is no such thing as a small migraine, and it can be difficult to differentiate between a migraine and a headache. The only way is through the symptoms I listed above.

Are there risk factors to migraines?

Migraines can be hereditary, and premature birth is a risk factor for developing them. Most likely it's tied with brain structure. So if your brain structure is migrainous, you will be migrainous.

And how about external factors then?

External factors that can cause migraines include heat or cold, excessive physical activity, fatigue, and stress. More importantly 100% of the children I see with migraines have them triggered by a high emotional event or stress. I can't stress this enough. Anxiety, stress or emotional heightening is always behind migraines.

Can migraines be prevented altogether?

Migraines can be prevented to some degree, although they may still occur. To reduce the frequency and length of migraines, lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, managing emotions, and engaging in activities such as meditation and sports can be beneficial. Restful activities too. But mind you, that doesn't necessarily mean sitting on the couch; instead, activities such as going to the trampoline park or skateboarding can help to rest the mind.

What is the average length of the migraine? Are there any warning signs?

On average, migraines can last anywhere from one hour to three days without treatment. In some cases, people may experience warning signs known as ORAS before a migraine occurs. Additionally, some people may notice a correlation between their migraines and their menstrual cycle which makes migraines predictable.

Are there any long-term complications that are associated with migraines

Migraines can cause depression due to their chronic nature. But it is important to remember that for most, migraines are not severe. Long-term complications associated with migraines are not common.

What do you tell children experiencing migraines?

Migraines can be a difficult condition to live with, but it is important to remember that it is not life-threatening. Many successful and intelligent people have been able to manage their migraines and lead successful lives. For example, Serena Williams or Ben Affleck have all been known to suffer from migraines, but have still achieved great success. It is possible to live a fulfilling life with migraines with the right treatment.

To learn more about pediatric migraines treatments, check part 2 of our interview!

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