Migraine

Migraine is an intense headache which is usually one-sided, throbbing, or pulsating in nature and is commonly associated with nausea, vomiting and a dislike of light and sound. It can be preceded by an aura, which usually consists of some visual disturbance. This can include bilateral flashing lights, tunnel vision or black spots throughout the visual fields. There can be other neurological symptoms including numbness of the face, lips, arms and legs, usually one-sided and there can be disturbance of speech and sometimes weakness of one side of the body.

Most people know the features of a migraine, nearly everyone will know someone who suffers from this condition as 10% of the UK population are sufferers of migraine. Surprisingly, most migraine sufferers never seek any medical help, relying on self-help measures and over the counter preparations.

Recognising the triggers that activate the symptoms of migraine is an essential part of successful treatment. Learning to avoid situations likely to bring on an attack and then prompt treatment of an attack with fairly simple measures can be sufficient for many.

Simple painkillers such as aspirin and paracetamol would work for many attacks of migraine if the stomach were able to absorb the drug into the blood stream. One of the problems is that migraine stops the muscle of the stomach moving properly. This causes the stomach contents to pool and build up causing nausea, vomiting and a failure to absorb any drugs that may have been taken. Many migraine preparations contain an anti-nausea drug to try to overcome this problem and for some people, provided they can take the medication as soon as they recognise the symptoms, these products which are available over the counter from all chemists will work.

Unfortunately for some people, it just isnít as easy as that. The nausea may start too soon, the stomach may have stopped working before the nausea is felt and in some these medications just donít work.

Over the last few years, new treatments have been developed for migraine. These are drugs called triptans and are very effective for some people. A nasal spray has been introduced for those in whom the nausea starts very early and some people even inject themselves so that the drug reaches the blood stream speedily.

These drugs have largely replaced some of the older, ergotamine based medicines although some people have migraine that remains difficult to treat and specialist advice may be necessary for them.

Migraine can start at any time in the young adult, sometimes it starts in childhood. It is not common to start after the age of 50. Women can be affected by hormonal changes throughout their menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the menopausal years. The combined contraceptive pill can be taken if your migraine does not have any Ďfocalí signs associated with the headache. Sometimes the pill makes migraine worse and stopping the pill may be necessary.

Further information

Migraine Action

This article published on
08 February 2006

Next review date 2/1/2013

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Head stuff
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