What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a severe and painful headache which feels like a throbbing pain located on various areas around the head such as a whole head or specific areas such as the front, the back or the sides of the head.

The exact cause of a migraine is unknown; it is said to be due to abnormal brain activity causing a temporary alteration in the nerve signals, chemicals, and blood flow in the brain. Migraines are usually a series of painful, disabling events; they can be triggered with early warning signs such as yawning and restlessness.

Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and can be so severe that the pain is disabling.

Up to 90% of migraines are categorised as non aura migraines. The main symptoms of migraines without aura include pain on one side of the head, pulsing or throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, nausea/vomiting, pain or discomfort is made worse by physical activities.

Cluster headaches are severely painful headaches that occur in one side of the head and come in clusters. This means you experience cycles of headache attacks, followed by headache free periods. The main differences between a cluster headache and migraine are migraines are moderate to severe and can appear on any area of the head, whereas cluster headaches are more targeted in one side of the head.

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What are the Triggers of a Migraine?

• Hormonal changes- Some women may experience migraines during their period cycle due to changes in the level of hormones. These migraines usually occur between two days before the start of female period to three days after.

• Emotional triggers- Such as stress, anxiety, tension, shock, depression, excitement

• Physical triggers- Such as tiredness, poor sleeping quality, poor posture, neck or shoulder tension, extreme sports such as sky diving, bungee jumping etc.

• Dietary triggers- Such as missed, delayed or irregular meals, dehydration, alcohol, caffeine products such as coffee etc.

• Environmental triggers- Such as bright lights, flickering screens e.g. television, computer screen, smoking (rooms exposed to smoke), loud noises, changes in climate e.g. extremely hot weather, strong smells, polluted areas

• Specific head injuries can trigger migraine.

• Repeated coughing can also trigger migraine.

• Too much or too little sleep can trigger migraine.

• Constant sleepiness’ nights, constant late nights, constantly being overtired can trigger migraine.

• Not eating a balanced meal, not eating properly can also lead to migraine.

• Medical conditions/Heart and blood pressure

• Over usage of medicines

• In severe cases excessive teeth grinding can also lead to migraines

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What are the Symptoms of a Migraine?

• Moderate to severe pain on either area of the head

• Intense headache

• Severe, throbbing, pulsing pain

• Increased migraine pain during physical activity or when straining

• Inability to perform regular activities due to migraine

• Nausea or vomiting

• Increased sensitivity to light and sound

• Sweating

• Temperature changes

• Stomach ache

• Diarrhoea

• Dizziness- could lead to fainting

• Weakness

• Poor concentration

• Mood changes

• Jet Lag- due to lack of sleep and excessive tiredness.

How can you Prevent Migraines?

Migraine prevention begins with avoiding factors which trigger the condition. The main goal is to reduce the frequency, painfulness and duration of migraine headaches and to increase the effectiveness of other therapies.

• Migraine diary- record date of the migraine attack, the time of day which the attack began, any warning signs, your current symptoms, what medication you took, the type of pain experienced, when the migraine attack ended. Use migraine apps to help with this.

• Reducing caffeine consumption not drinking excessive caffeine.

• Reducing stress levels to become more relaxed

• Getting the right amount of sleep average 8 hours

• Avoid exposure to high noise environments

• Taking regular breaks when on computer

• Good lighting, be careful the lights are not too bright

• Stable posture- sitting comfortably for example when using a computer avoid muscle tension building up in the head area.

• Balanced Diet

• Cut down on alcohol consumption no more than 14 units per week is the recommended safe intake.

• Cut down on smoking to reduce the onset of a migraine.

• Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

• Regular Exercise help to improve overall health and reduce chances of migraine occurring.

• Eat Regularly

• Over the counter products such as ibuprofen to help ease the symptoms of migraine. Herbs, vitamins and minerals.

• Find a calm quiet environment such as turning off the lights, sleeping or lying in a darkened room.

• Temperature control therapy such as applying cold ice packs with a hand towel to the affected area e.g. the forehead area.

• Relaxation exercises such as having a warm bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music.

• Massage therapy helps to reduce the frequency of migraines.

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What Treatment is available for Migraines?

Prescription medications which are available such as Zolmitrapan tablets, Imigran tablets, Imigran Nasal Spray, Maxalt Melt Wafers, Sumatriptin tablets, Rizatriptan

• Over the counter medications which are available such as paracetamols, aspirin.

• MRI scan may be used to investigate brain activity further if migraine is severe.

To find out more information simply visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Migraine/Pages/Introduction.aspx