Migraine – Not Just a Headache

Oct 3, 2023 | Featured Articles, Health & Nutrition



Migraine – Not Just a Headache

Oct 3, 2023 | Featured Articles, Health & Nutrition

Over 20% of the adult population experience headaches that have an impact on their quality of life. The most common is a tension type headache. This is a dull pain that occurs usually like a band around the head and can be readily relieved with simple painkillers. 

Much less common, cluster headache is one of the most painful conditions known to medicine. The pain is always around the eye, like a “red hot poker.” The pain lasts for up to two hours and is associated with agitation. 

A Migraine lasts between four and forty-eight hours, can occur anywhere in the head and is usually associated with nausea or vomiting, and light or sound sensitivity. 

 With both a migraine and a tension type headache, there is also an associated headache that can arise from medication overuse. Any painkillers taken for more than 15 days of the month for these types of headaches, can result in headache although the reason why this happens is poorly understood.

A migraine attack is not just a headache. Many people will get a warning known as a prodrome, often days before. This can take many forms including lethargy, a food craving or heightened sensation. 30% will get an aura which typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes before the headache starts. 

The most common type of aura is flashing lights, but other neurological phenomena can occur – for example pins and needles, muscle weakness or difficulty with speech. This can be quite frightening, particularly in young people when it happens for the first time. The aura is followed by the headache phase which is associated with nausea or vomiting and heightened sensitivity to any of light, sound, movement and touch.

Overtime, migraine can increase in frequency and become chronic. This is defined as headache on 15 days of the month or more of which eight days or more are migraine like. 

Chronic migraine is associated with a number of other problems which include anxiety, depression, bowel problems and in particular irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and poor sleep patterns. 

What can I do if I suffer from migraines?
A useful starting point to managing migraine is avoiding triggers, keeping things as constant as possible and a healthy lifestyle. Medical treatment includes management of the migraine attack or medication to prevent migraines from occurring which needs to be taken every day.  

There are now some very effective preventative medications available, however you need the correct diagnosis first. It is advisable to see your GP for a diagnosis and to establish a headache management plan that’s right for you. 

For more useful information see The Migraine Trust www.migrainetrust.org. Dr Kernick will be running face to face and Zoom workshops this autumn on both the medical management of migraine and more holistic approaches. Find out more at tinyurl.com/MigraineWorkshopExeter

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