Migraine is a long-term health condition, which involves headaches with sensory disturbance. It is an instability of the way that the brain deals with incoming sensory information, this instability is often influenced by physiological changes such as sleep, exercise and diet.
Migraine is a common health condition affecting 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men across the world, and often begins in early adulthood. Some people may experience frequent migraine attacks several times per week, whereas others may experience them occasionally.
In some cases, years may pass in between migraine attacks.
Scientists and doctors believe that migraine is a result of abnormal brain activity that affects the nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels. It is not known what causes these abnormalities however there are various risk factors which can lead to migraine.
It is believed that migraine is highly genetic, therefore if a parent or sibling has it, there is a much higher chance that you will too.
Other factors are:
– Lack of sleep
– Poor diet
– Poor exercise
– Low blood sugar
– Hormonal changes (period / menopause)
– Environmental factors (temperature / lighting)
Types of Migraine
- Migraine with aura
- Migraine without aura
- Aura without headache
Symptoms of a migraine attack can last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days and the individual may feel more tired than usual for around 1 week after.
The most common symptoms of migraine are:
Intense headache on one side of the head, in some cases this pain may occur in both sides and can also affect the face and neck.
These headaches often get worse with movement and can prevent you from taking part in day-to-day activities.
Other symptoms include:
– Stomach pain
– Poor concentration
– Being very hot / very cold
1 in 3 people with migraine will experience temporary warning signs (known as aura’s) these may include:
– Visual problems (flashing lights, zig-zag patterns or blind spots)
– Numbness or tingling sensation such as pins and needles (often starting in one hand and moving up the arm before affecting face, lips and tongue)
– Difficulty talking
– Rarely – Loss of consciousness
Aura symptoms can develop over the space of 5 minutes and can last around 1 hour.
Aura symptoms typically begin before the headache sets in, however they can occur at the same time and in some cases, people may experience the aura symptoms without a headache.
There is no cure for migraine, but there are treatments that can help…
Migraine is complex and people may experience various symptoms, therefore there are different treatments available.
In order to find the right treatment for you, your GP will need to establish which type of migraine you have, how often you have attacks, how bad they are and also your medical history.
Some treatments are:
– Painkillers of varying strengths
– Anti-sickness medications
These can help to stop or at least shorten the attacks. However, if you experience 4 or more attacks in a month, you should ask your GP about preventative medications. These are usually taken every day to try and reduce the number of attacks that you experience.
It can also be beneficial to review your day-to-day lifestyle.
If there are factors that you can change for the better, this too can help reduce the risk of a migraine attack.
For example, getting more exercise, eating regular healthy meals, having a good sleep routine and lowering every day stress.