Migraines affect one in seven people across the world. They're three times as common in women as they are in men, largely due to hormonal factors.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
Migraine headaches are typically moderate to severe and are usually based on one side of the head. The pain often starts gradually over one to two hours and is often described as pulsating or throbbing. Migraines last from a few hours up to several days.
Migraine headaches are sometimes accompanied by:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Decreased appetite
What can trigger a migraine?
While there is no known cause of migraines, it often runs in families. Some common migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal changes, for example, during ovulation or menstruation
- Some foods like chocolate or cheese
- Sleep disturbances
What type of migraine do I have?
Migraines usually fall into one of three categories:
- Migraine without aura
- Migraine with aura
- Migraine aura without headaches, also known as silent migraines – the least common type
You may experience all three types at different times. All migraines are uncomfortable and the pain can sometimes be very severe.
How can migraines be treated?
You may find that some simple measures can be enough to manage your migraines. These include:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Taking a nap in a quiet dark room without white light stimulation from televisions, computers or mobile phones
- Taking a painkiller like paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen. Remember to eat a small snack before taking any NSAIDs and talk to your pharmacist for advice about dosage, drug interactions and which painkiller is most suitable for you
- Migraines can also be treated with a group of drugs called 'triptans', and with anti-sickness medication. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you
You may find it helpful to keep a migraine diary to record, for instance, any foods you may have eaten that day, or the stage in your menstruation cycle. You can include any other information you may think is important, like stress levels. This will help you identify triggers and hopefully learn how to avoid migraines.
If you find that your migraines are still not under control or are severe, make an appointment with your Doctor who will be able to give you stronger medicines like triptans. If you have frequent migraines, even if you're able to manage them with painkillers, you should visit your Doctor as they may be able to prescribe preventative treatment. They may also decide to send you to a specialist for further guidance on managing your migraines.
When should I see my Doctor?
You should visit a doctor if your headache does not improve after two days despite taking painkillers regularly, or if your headache is severe.
Do I need to go to hospital?
You should call an ambulance immediately if you also have:
- A fever
- A rash
- Difficulty in moving your arms or legs
- Slurred speech
- Fainting episodes
What are the next steps?
- When you get a migraine, try to rest as much as possible and keep yourself hydrated
- You can also take some painkillers to help ease your headache. Don't hesitate to speak with your pharmacist if you need advice on which medicines to take and how to take them
- If you find that your migraines are severe and difficult to control with these simple measures or are frequent, talk to your Doctor for advice