Migraines: What a pain in the brain.

ImageWhat are migraines?

Migraines are a complex condition with a large variety of symptoms which usually start as a throbbing pain in the front or side of the head. For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other possible symptoms can include sensitivity to light, disturbed vision, feeling sick/vomiting, even sound and smells. Migraines can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for a few hours.


Depending on the person your symptoms will vary and individuals may experience different symptoms during different attacks in which they may differ in length and frequency. The duration of migraines usually last from 4 to 72 hours depending on how severe it is and most people are free from symptoms between attacks.

Types of Migraines:

Migraine with aura is when there is a warning sign, known as aura, before the migraine begins. About a third of people with migraine have this. Warning signs may include visual problems (such as flashing lights) and stiffness in the neck, shoulders or limbs.

  • Migraine without aura
  • Migraine without headache, also known as silent migraine, is when an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache does not develop.

Who is affected by migraines?

Migraines often start in young adults with many people experiencing one before they are 40 years old, they occur more in woman than in men this could be due to hormones and are usually more frequent around their menstrual cycle.  They affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 12 men in the UK.

Why do we get migraines?

Most migraines occur due to certain triggers, such as stress and certain foods.
They are also caused by changes in the chemicals of the brain, serotonin decreases during a migraine causing the blood vessels to narrow this leads the brain to spasm which can lead to aura, The blood vessels then widen which then causes the headache.

Emotional triggers:

  • anxiety
  • tension
  • shock
  • depression
  • excitement

Physical triggers:

  • poor quality of sleep
  • shift work
  • poor posture
  • neck or shoulder tension
  • travelling for a long period of time
  • low blood sugar
  • Tiredness
  • menopause

Dietary Triggers:

  • delayed or irregular meals (see below)
  • dehydration
  • alcohol
  • the food additive tyramine
  • caffeine products, such as tea and coffee
  • specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruit and cheese
  • lack of eating

Treating Migraines:

There is no cure for migraines but Over the counter medicines such as Nurofen, Paramol and imigran recovery can be used to treat the symptoms of migraines.
Painkillers are usually the first treatment for migraine. They tend to be more effective if taken at the first signs of a migraine attack. This gives them time to absorb into your bloodstream and ease your symptoms.

Prescription medicines are not the same as painkillers. They cause the blood vessels around the brain to contract (narrow). This reverses the dilating (widening) of blood vessels that is believed to be part of the migraine process.

Triptans are available as tablets, injections and nasal sprays. Triptan medicines only work for some people. If one type of triptan medicine does not seem to work such Sumatriptan or imigran ask your GP about other types.

Sourced from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Treatment.aspx