A migraine is a neurological condition that usually involves a moderate or severe headache felt on one side of the head. It can also involve symptoms such as feeling sick, increased sensitivity to light, increased sensitivity to sound, numbness, tingling or aura.
Usually running in families, they affect around 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men, with the symptoms lasting from hours to days.
More than just a headache, they appear to be caused by complex changes to the blood flow and chemicals in the brain and can present with aura, without aura and without a headache (‘silent migraine’).
If you suffer from a migraine, every aspect of your life can be affected including your work, your education and your social life.
In this short article, we’ll be sharing more about this common neurological condition, discussing some of the triggers and looking at how you can both treat and prevent a migraine.
What can trigger a migraine?
Migraine can be triggered by a range of factors that will be unique to you. This can include:
Gender: Women are more likely than men to suffer from migraines.
Hormones: Any changes in your oestrogen levels (as seen during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause) make it more likely that you will suffer from a migraine. The oral contraceptive pill can make this worse.
Sensory stimuli: Bright or flashing lights, loud or sudden sounds and strong smells can trigger migraines in some people.
Allergies and sensitivities: Certain foods and drinks such as chocolate, caffeine, alcohol (especially wine), cheese and salty foods can be a migraine trigger for some. Food additives such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) can also pose a problem.
Family history: If you have family members who also suffer from migraines, you’re much more likely to suffer too.
Environment: Skipping meals, suffering from stress, lack of sleep and even the weather can trigger migraines.
How to treat a migraine
There is no cure for migraines. However, a combination of lifestyle changes and treatments can help treat a migraine and reduce the frequency. Here are our tips:
1. Find a calm place: If you start to develop a migraine, take a break. Stop what you’re doing and find a dark, quiet place to relax in and sleep if you can.
2. Use a cold compress: Ice packs can ease pain and help you to relax.
3. Drink a small amount of caffeine: This can help open up the blood vessels in your brain so that any pain medication will work more effectively.
4. Take a pain-killing medication: There’s no need to suffer. Take an over the counter medicine such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain or speak to your GP about migraine medication such as triptans and anti-emetics. Visit your local branch of Whitworth and speak to one of our friendly pharmacists for advice.
How to prevent migraines
You can also avoid developing a migraine by doing the following:
1. Get enough sleep: Ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night and aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
2. Eat well: Avoid skipping meals and eat regularly to ensure your blood sugar levels remain stable. It’s also a good idea to keep a food diary to identify any potential migraine triggers such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol.
3. Exercise: Staying active will help promote healthy brain chemicals, alleviate depression and anxiety and help you stay a healthy weight.
4. Manage your stress: Simplify your life and manage your time effectively so you can reduce your stress levels. Ensure you find time to relax, take a break and enjoy life.
5. Keep a migraine diary: Keep a note of when your migraines start, how long they last and any potential triggers so you can understand what is happening in your body. This information is useful if you want to seek help from your local pharmacist or GP.
If you suffer from migraines, don’t suffer in silence. Take steps to manage them by following healthy lifestyle tips and using medication if necessary. This will help you reduce the frequency of your migraines and allow you to live a rich and fulfilling life.
For more help with your migraines, come and talk to one of our friendly pharmacists today.