Migraines are a type of headache that is characterised by pain on one side of the head. They are typically described as pulsatile or pulsing, and they get worse with movement, preventing you from carrying out normal activities. Migraines are a common condition that affects around 1 in every 5 women and 1 in every 15 men. Most people will begin experiencing migraines in early adulthood. Attacks can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days, although some people may also experience a “migraine hangover” where you feel fatigued for up to a week.
The frequency of a migraine attack is different for different people, some may experience a migraine several times a week, some may only experience a migraine once a year.
A migraine aura is a specific symptom that around 1 in 3 migraine sufferers can experience before the onset of the headache. It is described as a “temporary warning” because it will gradually fade away over the course of an hour. At this stage, you may experience a headache that can be mild or severe or not happen at all. Symptoms of aura include vision disturbances such as:
· Flashing lights · Static like vision · Blind spots · Zig-zag patterns
Other aura symptoms include:
· Numbness or pins and needles that begin in one hand then gradually moves up your arm before affecting your face, lips and tongue. · Dizziness · Difficulty speaking · Fatigue
We should be clear – if you have severe symptoms like not being able to move your arms or legs, or changes to your speech then you should be reviewed by a doctor as an emergency as there can be other more serious causes of these symptoms. It may be less urgent to have a review if these are a part of your normal set of migraine symptoms, and you have previously been assessed by your doctor or hospital.
There are a few different types of subcategories within migraine’s, specifically relating to the presence of aura. People can have migraine with aura, migraine without aura (the most common), and migraine aura without a headache.
Other than the headache and the symptoms of aura, migraine sufferers can sometimes experience the following associated symptoms:
· Feeling sick or being sick · Sensitivity to light and sound (This is why many sufferers will seek dark quiet rooms to rest) · Sweating · Gastrointestinal disturbances (bloating, pain, diarrhoea, constipation)
There are many different treatments for a migraine attack. You may need to try several different treatments and combinations to find one that works for you.
If paracetamol and ibuprofen are ineffective, you may want to consider stronger pain killers and can speak with your pharmacist or doctor about these. Another class of medications called triptans are also available which can work well for stopping migraine attacks. They can be taken as soon as the aura or preceding symptoms are felt.
If trials of these medications still do not provide adequate relief, you should consider speaking to your doctor to discuss other options which may include prescription-only medications and ways to prevent migraines from happening in the first place.
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