Migraines are a debilitating condition that affect more than one billion people worldwide. More than a headache, they can cause nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances, and even difficulty speaking. Migraines are more common in women than men with research showing that this is likely to be due to hormonal factors.
Symptoms of a migraine include a pulsing sensation or severe throbbing pain, usually one-sided. Other symptoms, including nausea, may be present at the same time. Often a migraine is so severe that daily activities are affected. Some people get a warning signal, called an aura, prior to the start of a migraine. This is often a visual disturbance, such as flashing lights, but can sometimes manifest as a physical disturbance, including tingling or difficulty with speech.
Impact and interventions
The effects of migraines is far-reaching, with many finding that they affect relationships, work and their social lives. Seeking medical support is crucial in the management of migraines, and therapeutic interventions include painkillers, lifestyle changes, stress management and the identification of triggers. One individual’s trigger may be different to another person’s, but common culprits include alcohol, weather changes, medication, sleep factors, sensory stimuli, caffeine, and foods.
Timescale and recovery
A migraine can be anything from four to 72 hours long if no treatment is accessed, and regularity changes from person to person. Some people report having several a month, whilst others may have one a year or fewer. Following a migraine, the person may feel confused or tired, and these effects can last for up to a day.
It’s advisable to keep a diary if you suffer from migraines, making note of any foods, drinks, or activities that may have induced them. Showing this diary to the GP can help them arrange an appropriate treatment plan.
When to seek immediate help
If you develop an unusual symptom such as a thunderclap, you have a fever or stiff neck alongside your headache, you’ve sustained a head injury, or have a chronic headache that does not get better or is worse after coughing or exertion, seek immediate medical attention.