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Migraines – your top questions answered

 
28/08/2019 | By Freedom Health Insurance

Are migraines just a bad headache?

Migraine is one of the most common diseases in the world, with around 1 in 7 people being affected by a type of migraine. And although the most occurring symptom is the throbbing headache, migraines are much more complex and can also disturb the vision, cause sensitivity lo light, sound and smells, can provoke sickness and vomiting and can force a person to stay in bed for days, impacting their social and working life (Migraine Trust). As reported by the NHS, other symptoms include sweating, poor concentration, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Some people may even experience these issues without having a headache.

Are migraines the same for everyone?

Migraines symptoms can differ from person to person, but specialists have identified two main types  - migraines with aura and migraines without aura. The most prevailing type is without aura, which normally manifests in pulsating pain on one side of the head or both sides of the head and can last from 4 to 72 hours. The migraines with aura are rarer and sufferers still get the painful headache, but along with this, they get a warning sign (called aura) in the form of temporary blindness, spots or other disturbances in the field of vision, numbness in the hand and face or trouble speaking.

The Stroke Association report that there are also other, less common types of migraines, some even mimicking a stroke, causing hearing problems or vertigo, either before or alongside typical migraine symptoms.

Do migraines affect everyone equally?

Migraines can affect both women and men, but they are three times more likely to affect women, with 1 in 4 women suffering from migraines. The Brain and Spine Foundation claims this is due to hormonal factors and women could experience migraines before or after their periods, when taking the contraceptive pill or when they approach the menopause.

Migraines usually begin in early adulthood for both genders, but the National Migraine Centre suggests they can affect children and adolescents too.

Do migraines run in the family?

The exact cause of migraines is not clear but researchers believe that genes play an important role in getting migraines. However, having migraines doesn’t automatically mean your children will have them too as additional factors like stress and hormonal changes are often necessary (Migraine Trust).

Can certain foods and drinks set off a migraine?

Each migraine can have different triggers but, according to the National Migraine Centre, alcohol is one of the most common. Alcohol can cause dehydration and increased blood flow which can lead to headaches. There is also some scientific evidence that suggests specific ingredients in drinks could contribute to a migraine, like histamine in red wine.

Food related triggers are not very common, and Migraine Trust even claims that craving certain foods could be a symptom before the migraine kicks in, rather than the food causing the migraine. But the Migraine Trust have reported certain chemicals in foods to be a stimulus (monosodium glutamate, nitrates and aspartame). A good way to find out what triggers your migraine is to keep a migraine diary.
 

How do you cope with a migraine attack?

During an attack, the NHS recommends lying down, staying in a dark room or getting some sleep. They also suggest that over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can also help but always read the instructions before you take them.

Although there is currently no cure for migraines, there are ways to keep them under control and live a normal life. You should see your GP for professional advice. Likewise, there are a few things you can do yourself to stay ahead of your migraines: stay hydrated, include exercise in your daily routine (find an activity that suits you), try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, avoid stress, eat enough food and avoid missing or delaying meals.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.