More than one in ten American are thought to get migraines, with the main symptom being a very painful headache. However, not all severe headaches are classed as migraines.
Migraines are the most common in people aged between 35 and 45 years of age. Women are more likely to get migraines than men, particularly during the reproductive years due to the influence of sex hormones.
Migraine headaches are characterized by a throbbing, pulsing pain, which tends to affect just one side of the head. You may also feel sick and/or be sensitive to light. These symptoms help doctors tell the difference between migraines and other types of a strong headache, which have a variety of causes including stress, eye strain and not drinking enough water.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
Migraine symptoms can be a cocktail of unpleasant feelings that you suffer alongside the severe headaches. Not everyone has the same symptoms, but some that are commonly experienced include:
- Feeling a little unwell for a day or two before a headache starts
- Experiencing visual disturbances such as flashing lights
- Experiencing sensitivity to light or sound
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue or lethargy
Migraine symptoms can last anywhere between a few hours and a number of days.
What are the causes of a migraine?
Migraine causes are a mystery as no one really knows why you get them. However, it’s thought they are associated with spasms of the blood vessels leading to your brain.
Also, they can run in families, but this isn’t always the case.
What researchers do know is that migraines seem to be triggered by things such as:
- Eating cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits or foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Drinking alcohol (particularly red wine)
- Stress, over-excitement, excessive activity or tiredness
- Hormonal changes such as during the menstrual cycle
- Exposure to weather changes, high humidity, noise and glaring light
Is there a way to relieve a migraine?
Once a migraine has started, treatment is focused on managing the migraine symptoms. Strong over-the-counter pain relief, such as Voltaren Rapid 25, can be dispensed by your pharmacist without a prescription.
Over-the-counter pain-relieving medicines are most effective when taken as soon as you experience symptoms of a migraine headache.
Other non-medicine migraine remedies you can try include:
- Resting or sleeping in a dark room
- Place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck
- Apply gentle pressure to painful areas on your scalp
Your doctor can provide information about other options for managing and preventing migraines.
Lifestyle tips for a migraine
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for migraines, but controlling your exposure to your triggers is important for prevention.
- Keep a diary of migraine attacks, so you can identify if you have food, environment or stress triggers
- Eat regularly and avoid skipping meals
- Cut back on caffeine, though not too drastically as sudden withdrawal can actually trigger migraines
- Maintain regular sleep patterns and make sure you have enough rest
- Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks
- Try relaxation therapies, such as meditation or yoga