What is a migraine?
A migraine is more than just a headache. People who suffer from them may experience repeated attacks with a range of unpleasant symptoms that can incapacitate them.
Migraines are highly common, affecting upwards of eight million people in the UK and tend to be a long term condition, although the frequency of attacks can range from several times each week to months or even years between each.
The first sign of a migraine is an intense headache, often accompanied by a pulsing pain at the front or side of the head. This is often accompanied by nausea and sickness and sensitivity to loud noises or light.
If you think you might be having migraine attacks, or are regularly experiencing severe headaches, it’s recommended that you speak to a GP as soon as possible.
What causes a migraine?
What causes migraines is not currently known, but a combination of genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role in their development. The condition runs in families and many sufferers can identify ‘triggers’ that cause the onset of migraine.
These tend to include issues like hunger, tiredness and stress, but others point to factors like diet and environmental concerns, like air quality and lighting.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
The defining symptom of migraines is a severe headache. However, this can often be accompanied by sensory issues, such as flashing lights, seeing coloured dots and distorted vision. This type of migraine is known as a ‘migraine with aura’.
However, migraines without these symptoms are common and those experiencing ‘migraine without aura’ will tend to get severe headaches, lasting anywhere from a few hours to days.
In both types, nausea, vomiting and even diarrhoea can occur, as can sensitivity to light and sound.
If you’re experiencing frequent migraine attacks (upwards of 15 days per month), you may be suffering from chronic migraine.
While there’s no known cure for migraines, there are a number of effective ways to manage the condition,reduce the severity of symptoms and give some headache relief.
These include using over-the-counter pain medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen, or more advanced medication like anti-emetics (used to reduce feelings of sickness) and triptans, which can help tackle the mechanisms in the brain thought to be responsible for the onset of migraines.
If you find your migraines are triggered by certain situations or environments, you can also look to avoid exposure to these triggers. Similarly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and plenty of exercise has been found to be of use in the prevention of migraines.
If you’re having frequent, severe headaches or getting headaches alongside any of the symptoms discussed above - it’s recommended that you speak to a GP.