Have I Got A Migraine?

Find out about migraines and their symptoms…

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine is a severe headache that throbs or pulses, usually on one side of the head. It can feel a lot more intense than a regular headache and can make you feel sick or make you actually be sick. A migraine can increase your sensitivity to light and noise, making even small sounds and daylight almost unbearable.

Who Is Affected By Migraines?

It’s a common condition affecting 1 in 5 females and 1 in 15 males. Migraines usually appear in young adulthood, although they can start during puberty. Some people will have regular migraines while others may only suffer the occasional attack.

Types of Migraine

Did you know that there are different types of migraine? The main types are:

  • Migraine With Aura

This is when there are warning signs just before the migraine starts. An aura is a sensory change that happens right before the headache. You may see flashing or zigzag lights or feel dizzy, sick or clammy. Other symptoms include ringing in the ears or muscle weakness. You might not experience and aura with every migraine.

  • Migraine Without Aura

This is the most common type of migraine. It’s basically the severe headache but without any warning signs.

  • Silent Migraine (Migraine Aura Without Headache)

Some people will experience the aura but won’t develop a painful headache.

What Causes A Migraine?

The cause of migraines is unknown and not fully understood. It’s widely thought that it may be genetic as many sufferers have a close relative who also has the condition. It’s also thought that certain things can trigger a migraine, such as:

  • Stress
  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety
  • Particular foods or drinks
  • Loud noises
  • Shock
  • Depression
  • Low blood sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Dehydration
  • Bright lights
  • Hormonal change (for example, starting a period)
  • Strong smells

Discovering what triggers your migraines can take some time. Try keeping a headache diary to help you work out if certain foods or things like stress, reduced sleep or caffeine are triggering your migraines. Get more help on keeping a headache diary here.

Can You Prevent Migraines?

If you’ve discovered possible triggers for your migraines, you can take steps to remove certain foods or activities from your day to try and prevent migraines. It can also help to:

  • Eat healthily and regularly – missing meals can trigger a migraine for some people
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Get plenty of sleep

Your doctor can help if, after removing triggers, you’re still experiencing severe migraines. Propranolol is often used to help prevent migraines.

How To Treat A Migraine

Unfortunately, you cannot ‘cure’ a migraine but you can treat the symptoms. You can:

  • Take paracetamol and ibuprofen to help with the pain.
  • Lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room to relieve light and noise sensitivity.

Most people can manage their migraines with over-the-counter painkillers, but if these aren’t enough, your doctor can prescribe:

  • Triptans – these help to reverse the changes in your brain which are thought to cause migraines.
  • Anti-emetics – these are used to treat the nausea or vomiting symptoms some people get with a migraine.

If you have frequent migraines your doctor may suggest other prescription medicines which are taken every day to prevent the attacks occurring.

When To Get Help For Migraines

Go and see your doctor if you are having frequent migraines. You don’t have to suffer in silence – your GP can help you find a treatment that helps you cope with the symptoms.

Seek immediate medical help and call 999 if you’re having a migraine and your experience:

  • Slurred speech
  • A sudden, severe and painful headache that you’ve never experienced before
  • Paralysis in one or both arms or down one side of the face
  • Headache with a fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, double vision and a rash

These symptoms could be a sign of something more serious, such as meningitis or a stroke so it’s important to get emergency help as quickly as possible.


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