Migraine is a form of headache which is severe and usually one sided, frequently associated with nausea and vomiting. This is sometimes preceded by warning symptoms which usually affect the eyesight and are known as an "aura".
People sometimes feel not quite right prior to a migraine, for example depressed, unusually happy or hungry, and in addition may suffer from visual changes such as flashing, zigzag lines, or a blind spot. Sometimes the symptoms are even more extreme. The headache is usually one sided although it is not invariably the same side. Quite quickly nausea and vomiting may follow. The bowels may also be affected and in children sometimes there is no headache but abdominal pain instead.
Each person is different but there are some "trigger" factors that are commonly involved:
- physical exhaustion
- climatic change
- hormones, such as period time in women
- foods, such as caffeine, cheese, chocolate, red wine
- Note down your attacks in a diary and try to spot any common triggering factors, and avoid them if possible.
- Try avoiding any food which seems implicated and at a later stage take a small trial dose of the food again to see whether it genuinely is involved.
- At the first symptom of an attack take a pain killer such as aspirin or paracetamol, even if this means waking yourself up when you notice symptoms while half asleep in the early hours of the morning. (Often by getting up time it is too late to abort the attack.)
- Most people find that it helps to lie down in a darkened room, in fact there may be little else you are able to do. In some instances migraine follows a period of rushing around over-stretching yourself, and it might be looked on as the body's way of slowing you down.
- Sometimes bathing your head in cold water or using a cold compress on the forehead is helpful.
- There are some over the counter preparations that contain a pain killer and a medication that stops nausea and vomiting (antiemetic). These are often even more effective than the pain killer alone, as migraine is associated with poor absorption from the stomach and a tendency for food and drink to stay in the stomach much longer than usual (prior to being sick).
- Your doctor may prescribe something along the lines of the above, such as domperidone (Motilium) which is primarily an anti-sickness medication, or possibly one of the more modern specific antimigraine treatments, such as sumatriptan (Imigran), rizatriptan (Maxalt), or zolmitriptan (Zomig), which work on one of the chemical pathways in the brain.
- If the attacks are frequent and disruptive, then your doctor may prescribe a drug to be taken daily as a preventative, such as a beta blocker like propranolol (Inderal) or pizotifen (Sanomigran).
- Sometimes relaxation and meditation techniques may be helpful as may some of the complementary therapies.
- "Daily Telegraph" Migraine, by Valerie South
- Step by step guide for patients, published by the Daily Telegraph and recommended by Dr James Le Fanu.
- Understanding Migraine & Other Headaches, by Dr Anne MacGregor
- Information for patients, published by the British Medical Association.
- More books
- Search Amazon.co.uk for more books on Migraine