Migraine

WHAT IS MIGRAINE?

This is a condition that causes headaches and often other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and visual disturbance. The headaches go completely between attacks.

It is a common condition affecting up to 25% of women and 8% of men at some stage. It usually starts late in childhood and often settles later in life. The attacks can occur frequently in susceptible people but others may get only one or two attacks in their lifetime.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

There are two common types of migraine, one with an aura and one without.

The migraine without aura is called common migraine. It tends to start with a headache on one side of the head but can spread. It can be very disabling and can last anything from 4-72 hours.

People often also get some nausea or vomiting and cant tolerate bright lights.

Migraine with aura is called classic migraine. It is the same as above but the headache is proceeded by an aura or strange sensation .This may be any visual disturbance but is often flashing lights or blurred vision. There may be numbness or tingling in a limb. There may be speech upset or odd taste or smells.

The aura can usually last for up to an hour and then goes before the headache develops. Some people just get the aura with no headache.

People often feel tired and irritable for a few hours after the headache has settled.

OTHER TYPES OF MIGRAINE

Menstrual migraine is common and occurs around the time of the period

Ocular migraine causes temporary loss of vision and often occurs in the same eye

Abdominal migraine often affects children and causes abdominal pains lasting several hours. Affected children often get common migraine as they get older.

Hemiplegic migraine causes weakness of one side of the body and can mimic a stroke.

HOW IS MIGRAINE DIAGNOSED?

The important thing about migraine is that patients recover completely between attacks. The doctor usually makes the diagnosis when described the classic symptoms and no specific tests are needed. They are often confused with tension headaches and may coexist.

It is uncertain what causes migraine although there are several unproven theories.

TRIGGERS

Certain foods especially cheese, chocolate and red wine are potent triggers. Oranges and caffeine are also common triggers.

Bright and/or flashing lights can provoke attacks in some people.

Stress, anxiety and depression can make attacks more likely .Changes to sleep patterns like shift work can make attacks more frequent.

HRT and the oral contraceptive pill can often trigger attacks

IS IT SERIOUS?

Migraines are common and usually people are completely fine between attacks. It is very important that you see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis. If the migraines are associated with the contraceptive pill you will probably need some other form of contraception.

If the migraines appear later in adulthood it is important that you see your doctor.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVALIABLE?

Aspirin is still a very useful painkiller for migraine and should be taken in soluble form as soon as the pain appears. This should not be taken by children under 16.

Paracetamol is useful if taken at the full dose.

Anti-inflammatories often work better than paracetamol especially ibuprofen.

Antisickness tablets can be prescribed by your doctor or bought from the pharmacy. They can also be given by suppository.

Triptans can help a lot. There are several different brands that are available on prescription and most people will find one type that works best.

There are also several types of medicine that can be taken to prevent attacks. People who get recurrent migraine usually can take regular medication which can be very effective at reducing frequency and severity of attacks.

HOW DO ZING MAGNETS HELP?

Acupuncture and acupressure have been used for many years to provide relief. They can be used during an acute attack or to prevent attacks. The magnets are placed on traditional acupuncture points and gently stimulate them. They can be left in place for days to prevent attacks or can be removed when the headache has gone.We recommend that you also continue your medication especially if you are are on preventative treatment.

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