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Migraines are often thought of as just a bad headache. But anyone who suffers with them will tell you how debilitating they are and how they stop people from working, and for most the only cure is sleep in a dark area. Lower your risk with these tips.

What are migraines?

Migraines are much more than just a bad headache but it is often felt as a severe throbbing pain at the front or side of the head which doesn't go away with painkillers.

Everyone suffers with different types of symptoms and quite often a migraine is accompanied by nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to light and sound.

They are a lot more common than you expect affecting 1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men and people usually grow out of them if they suffer them in childhood. The 3 main types of migraine are:

  1. Aura & Migraine - warning signs such as seeing flashing lights before the migraine begins
  2. Aura-less migraine - no warning signs before the migraine hits
  3. Aura without headache - "silent migraine" when people suffer the symptoms but the headache never develops

What causes migraines?

The causes of migraines is relatively unknown as they affect many people in completely different ways. The physiological explanation for a migraine is they are brought on by changes in chemicals in the brain which is temporary but this is only a theory as it is almost impossible to prove. A lot of people who suffer migraines have a close family member who previously suffered or still does which suggests that its possible that there is a genetic factor involved. Instead of there being a main cause for this condition we usually refer to people having certain triggers such as the start of their period, certain foods/drinks or they can be stress related.

A hormonal change is one of the most common factors that lead to migraines in women.

As its reported that nearly all female sufferers experience migraines around the time of their menstrual cycle between 2-3 days before or after they menstruate. Other triggers are emotional (stress, anxiety), physical (tiredness, neck or shoulder tension), dietary (missed meals. dehydration), environmental (bright lights, smoking) or medication they are taking.

Treating migraines

There is no cure for migraines at the moment but there are a few treatments that can help ease the pain or ease the symptoms for migraine sufferers.

  • Painkillers - over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are great are relieving the pain of a migraine. The best time to take these are at the first signs of an attack to give them time to get into the bloodstream and ease the pain before it gets too bad. If the headache is already extremely painful it is usually too late for them to have any major effect because if you are vomiting they will not get into the bloodstream - dissolving them in water is a good alternative to get them absorbed.
  • Triptans - these are prescribed by your doctor and they work well with anti-sickness medications. They are not painkillers but they work to constrict the blood vessels leading to the brain (dilation or opening up of these vessels is thought to be a cause) to help relieve the attack and allow it pass quickly. There are a few side effects such as tightness, nausea or drowsiness but they tend to be mild. Seek medical advice before taking this kind of medication.
  • Anti-sickness medication - the biggest problem with migraines is the sicknesses that occurs at the same time. This continued vomiting makes the headache worse, further dehydrates you and prevents you from sleeping. Taking medication to prevent or control the vomiting will be very helpful when suffering an attack.

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