What's in this article?
Migraine is usually a severe head-ache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head.
Other people also have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.
Migraine is a common health condition affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men. It usually begin in early adulthood.
- migraine with aura – where there are warning signs before the migraine begins such as seeing flashing lights
- migraine without aura – where the migraine occurs without warning signs
- migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced but a headache does not develop
Some people have migraines frequently up to several times a week. Some people only have a migraine occasionally. It’s possible for years to pass between migraine attacks.
What causes migraines?
Exact cause of migraines is unknown although they are thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals and blood vessels in the brain.
About half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition, suggesting that genes may play a role.
Some people find migraine attacks are associated with certain triggers, which can include starting their period, stress, tiredness and certain foods or drinks.
Migraine headaches often begin in childhood adolescence or in early adulthood. Migraines may progress through four kind of stages including prodrome, headache, aura and postdrome though you may not experience all the stages.
One or two days before a migraine you will notice subtle changes that signify an oncoming migraine, this includes:
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Uncontrollable yawning
Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras were nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances such as flashes of light. Usually auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances. Some people experience migraine headaches without aura. Each of these symptoms will begins gradually builds up over several minutes and then commonly lasts for 20 to 60 minutes. Aura sign will includes:
- Visual phenomena, such as seeing bright spots, various shapes or flashes of light
- Vision loss
- Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
- Speech or language problems (aphasia)
Less commonly an aura may be associated with limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine).
How migraines are treated
There’s no cure for migraines but there are some number of treatments available to help reduce the symptoms.
- painkillers – including over the counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
- triptans – medications that can help reverse the changes in the brain that may cause migraines
- anti-emetics – medications often used to reduce nausea and vomiting
During an attack many people find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room can also help.
If you suspect a trigger is causing your migraines such as stress or a certain type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.
It may also help to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sleep and meals, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
If migraines are severe or you have tried avoiding possible triggers and you are still experiencing symptoms, your GP may prescribe medication to help prevent further attacks.
Medications will be used to prevent migraines include the anti-seizure medication topiramate and a medication called propranolol that is usually used to treat high blood pressure.