What is it?
A migraine is a very severe headache. It is thought to be due to tense blood vessels in the brain causing pressure and pain. It is usual in young women, but can also occur in other people.
What are the symptoms?
Migraines are usually described as a throbbing pain that gets worse with movement. People with migraine may also feel like throwing up, and may be extra-sensitive to light or noise. Hence, they usually just want to lie down in a quiet dark room. A migraine attack can last from a few hours to a few days.
Some people get warning signs, called auras before they have a migraine. Auras may be in the form of seeing flashing lights, have ringing in the ears, numbness in parts of the body, or difficulty speaking.
What treatments work?
Most migraine treatments come as tablets taken when you feel an attack is starting. Painkillers, such as aspirin, paracetamol, and ibuprofen can all help with migraines. If you are unable to swallow tablets, you can ask for alternatives. They may come combined with caffeine, to stop you from throwing up. However, caffeine may also prevent you from resting well. You need to be careful not to take painkillers too regularly as your body gets used to the drug, and you have a headache when you stop taking it.
A group of drugs called triptans were specially designed to help with migraines. One type can be bought over the counter. The brand name is Imigran Recovery. The others are gotten on doctor’s prescription. You shouldn’t take triptans at the same time as other migraine drugs and antidepressants. They shouldn’t also be taken by people with some heart problems. Side effects are mild.
How can I help myself?
Common triggers for migraines include lack of sleep, hunger, stress, or a particular food or drink, or around the time of menstruation for women. If possible, you should try to avoid these triggers. If you can’t, it’s helpful to learn to recognise the early signs of a migraine. You can then take your medicine straight away or find somewhere comfortable to rest early enough.
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What will happen to me?
Migraines are likely to occur quite regularly (about once monthly). If you have two or more migraines each month, or if your attacks are very bad, you may want to ask your doctor about treatments to prevent attacks.