Migraine is a condition characterised by a painful headache. Migraine symptoms can last hours or days and can be quite severe. The exact cause is not known, but both genetics and environment can play a role, with some people finding they experience symptoms when exposed to certain triggers.
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A migraine is a condition that often causes very severe headaches, usually on one side of the head. Other symptoms include feeling nauseous or vomiting, as well as increased sensitivity to noises and bright lights. Migraine symptoms vary between people, and can sometimes be so severe that they interfere with normal daily activities.
It is not known what causes migraines, but it is thought that they are the result of changes in brain and nerve activity. There may also be a genetic component, as they tend to run in families.
Some people find that they experience migraine after exposure to certain triggers, like:
Migraines are known for the painful headaches they cause, but there are four different phases, although not everyone will experience each phase. These are called prodrome, aura, attack (usually including a headache), and postdrome.
The prodrome, or warning phase, begins a few days before a migraine begins, and it consists of subtle changes that indicate an upcoming migraine. These can include GI disturbances such as constipation, mood changes, neck stiffness, and tiredness.
Within an hour before an attack, some people get an ‘aura’, which includes sensory changes. Aura symptoms include:
Migraine headaches usually begin as a dull ache, growing into a throbbing or pulsing pain that gets worse with movement. They usually affect one side of the head, but can move to the other side, or affect the front of your head, or your entire head. You may feel sensitive to light, sound, and sometimes smell or touch. You may also feel nauseous, vomit, or faint.
After an attack, people often feel drained and fatigued, with residual head pain and difficulty concentrating. This can last for up to two days.
Everyone experiences migraine symptoms differently, and it is possible to experience only some of these stages. For instance, some people may experience a migraine attack without aura, and some may experience aura without a headache.
Most migraines end within four hours, but some can last as long as three days.
The best way to prevent a migraine is to identify your triggers. You can do this by keeping a log of the day, time, warning signs, symptoms, and how long it lasted. Once you have a log, you may be able to recognise a pattern, and avoid any consistent triggers, preventing an attack from occurring.
If your migraines are very frequent or severe, you may be prescribed medication. There are a number of different types of medication, but it will depend on your suitability and needs. For instance, if your migraines coincide with the beginning of your menstrual period, your doctor may prescribe medication to take before the start of your period.
There is currently no permanent cure for migraines, but symptoms can be treated with medication and lifestyle modifications.
Many people find resting or sleeping in a dark room during a migraine attack can help. You can also try putting a cool compress on your head, and should ensure you drink plenty of fluids.
When taken at the first signs of an attack, over-the-counter pain relief medications, like ibuprofen or paracetamol, can help reduce symptoms. However, if you find that you are needing to use these medications quite frequently, or if they become less effective, your GP may prescribe another type of medication, such as a triptan.
Triptans reverse the changes in the brain, such as widening of the blood vessels, thought to cause migraines. They are available as tablets, nasal sprays, and injections. Commonly prescribed triptans include Sumatriptan and Almotriptan.
Anti-sickness medications may also help reduce migraine symptoms, even if you do not feel sick during an attack.
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