How to take control of your migraines
Migraines are the most common type of headache that GP’s see in their surgery
It is estimated that up to 8 million people in the UK are affected and it is reported to be the most widespread long-term neurological condition we have in the UK. Although what causes migraines is not yet completely understood, researchers have discovered that those people with a family history of migraines are most likely to suffer.
Compared to men, more women tend to suffer from migraines with estimates put at 18% of women being affected compared to 8% of men. Although the reason is not clear why this should be, during the menstrual cycle less oestrogen is produced and prostaglandin (a hormone-like substance) is released which may be the cause of migraine in some women. Approximately 10% of women have reported being affected by ‘menstrual migraines’.
The World Health Organisation has a ranking system for worldwide diseases and places migraines at 19th on the scale. It is therefore really important to know what to do when a migraine starts and how to control the symptoms.
It is important to recognise your symptoms as they are dependent on which migraine you may be experiencing. There are typically three types of migraine – one with aura, one without aura and a migraine aura without a headache. Less than 25% of people experience migraine with aura and the aura may not even occur every time.
The most common aura migraine lasts around an hour and typically involves visual or sensory disturbances or sometimes both occur simultaneously. It is believed that electrochemical changes in the brain can trick the body’s immune system into sending response cells which result in the widening of blood vessels which then cause the aura. A person suffering an aura migraine can experience numbness or loss of sensation and facial tingling which can then extend into the arm.
Those who suffer a migraine without aura will, 85% of the time, experience severe and intense pain. Usually, the pain only manifests itself either towards the front or side of the head and may be accompanied by a feeling of nausea. The pain will be made worse by any physical activity.
Typically, people inaccurately diagnose migraines and can believe them to headaches due to tension or infected sinuses. In fact, approximately 47% of us can be confused by these; however, the symptoms are different – sensitivity to light is a good indication of a migraine and less likely to occur with other headaches. A sinus infection is usually the reason for a sinus headache and the pain with a tension headache pain is usually on both sides of the head where it will only be on one side with a migraine.
Treating the symptoms
Luckily there are a few ways to treat the pain associated with migraines. Pain relievers, triptans (specifically for migraines) and anti-nausea tablets can all be used to help fight a migraine. Over the counter painkillers such as aspirin or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can help and anti-nausea tablets can be taken alongside them.
For those migraines with pain that won’t ease by taking common painkillers, your GP may prescribe a migraine-specific medicine called triptan. Triptan functions by actively contracting the blood vessels in the head along with obstructing the passage of pain to the facial sensory nerves.
Lying in a dark room, or a cold compress held to your head may relieve some of the pain, alongside your medication. A dark room works well as it will help against light sensitivity and help you rest too. It has also been reported that 77% of those who have tried cold therapy have said it relieves migraine pain, this works because a cold compress or ice pack works will cool the blood moving through your vessels.
How to stop migraines reoccurring
Learning how to recognise why your migraine occurs is the first step to controlling it. It can be tricky to identify why your migraine happens in the first place but there are ways to minimise the risk.
Something that is said to increase your risk of having a migraine is called a migraine trigger. The trigger may start the process that leads to a migraine but does not cause a migraine itself. If you are able to work out what triggers your migraines then you may be able to stop them occurring in the future. Dehydration, caffeine, food additives, alcohol, lack of sleep and stress are the most common migraine triggers.
This article has been written for adults displaying symptoms of a migraine. Please visit the NHS Choices website for information on headaches in children
Further information and sources
Migraine – NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries
Migraine – NHS factsheet
“How common are headaches?” – The World Health Organisation
All content on Silversurfers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Silversurfers will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on www.silversurfers.com and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silversurfers to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health.
Have you got a health question?
We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a health related question of your own – about your or your family's health, medication or upcoming procedures, for example – you can also access their, "Ask the Expert" service. Available around the clock, 365 days a year this free resource allows you to ask the team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives and pharmacists about any health concerns you may have– whenever you need us, 24 hours a day, every day.
Please get in touch with us now. Click below to submit your question online.
ASK THE EXPERT
AXA PPP healthcare
Latest posts by AXA PPP healthcare (see all)
- Self-help tips on how to lower blood pressure naturally - June 7, 2019
- Do certain foods make you ill? - June 4, 2019
- Losing a loved one – how to cope - May 23, 2019
- Slipped discs – all you need to know - May 9, 2019
- How to prevent osteoporosis - May 7, 2019
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!