WHAT IS A MIGRAINE?
Migraines are common conditions affecting around one in five women and up to 6 per cent of men. They can be loosely described as severe headaches involving a throbbing pain in the front or side of the head. A migraine sufferer often finds these headaches to be a recurring, debilitating problem.
25 million days of school and work are lost every year in the UK due to migraines, costing the UK economy somewhere in the region of £2.25 billion.
HOW IS A MIGRAINE DIFFERENT TO A HEADACHE?
There is a common misconception that migraines are nothing more than intense headaches. In reality, a migraine is a complex neurological affliction which is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the most disabling lifestyle conditions.
Migraine pain is often concentrated in one side of the head, and is sometimes preceded by visual or sensory disturbances such as flashing lights or blurred vision. Migraines can last for hours or even days at a time.
As well as severe head pain, symptoms of migraines can include:
- Heightened sensitivity to noise, bright lights and strong fragrances
- Nausea, queasiness and sometimes even vomiting
- An inability to carry out normal daily activities, often because sufferers feel the need to lie in a dark, cool room
- Neck and shoulder stiffness
Feelings of exhaustion can stay with migraine sufferers for days after the head pain itself has subsided.
WHAT CAUSES MIGRAINES?
There is no one specific cause for migraines and scientists do not yet know precisely why they have such an impact on some people. However, a range of factors have been identified as triggers for migraines, including light, noise, reactions to food and dehydration. Other factors might include prolonged stress, insomnia, general inactivity and overexposure to screens on devices like computers, smartphones and televisions.
Migraines are thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily altering nerve signals, chemicals and circulation through blood vessels. There is evidence to suggest that genetics may make you more likely to experience migraines as the result of a specific trigger.
Lifestyle aspects such as alcohol consumption, poor diet, poor posture and low blood sugar can all make you more susceptible.
HOW DO YOU TREAT MIGRAINES?
Despite these severe triggers and symptoms, many people still see migraines as an untreatable, even unavoidable condition. They see these headaches as just “something you have to live with”, but this isn’t true. Pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong.
Practising self-care can help tackle migraine symptoms through gentle stretches and exercises, improving your diet, drinking plenty of fluids and taking time away from screens in order to experience some fresh air.
Medication is also an effective form of migraine relief, and there are several medications on the market that pharmacists can prescribe to sufferers. Imigran is the leading brand when it comes to migraine relief medication, but there now several alternatives such as Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan and Rizatriptan.