In this Health Hub article, we explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of migraines.
A migraine is usually moderate to severe throbbing pain on one side of the head. Many migraineurs also experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. A migraine can vary in duration from 4 hours to several days.
Facts & Figures
- Migraines affect about half a million people in Ireland which is approximately 15 % of the population.
- It is 3 times more common in women than men.
- It affects all ages although most ‘migraineurs’ experience their first attack during puberty due to hormonal changes.
Types of Migraines
There are several types of migraines including:
- Migraine without aura – the most common type which usually occurs without any warning signs.
- Migraine with aura – there are specific warning signs before a migraine begins such as blurred vision or flashing lights.
- Migraine aura without a headache – aura or other migraine symptoms occur without the development of a headache. This is also known as ‘a silent migraine’.
Causes and Triggers of Migraines
There is no exact known cause of a migraine, although it is thought that it occurs when the blood vessels to the brain swell and become inflamed causing intense throbbing pain. Almost half of all sufferers have a close relation who also suffers from migraines so it is thought that genetics also contribute
Many migraineurs can also identify specific triggers that can set off an attack. These include:
- Certain food or drinks including coffee, wine, chocolate, garlic, specific fruits, alcohol, dairy products.
- Extreme emotions such as depression, stress, anger and excitement.
- Sleep deprivation or disturbance.
- Hormonal changes in women e.g. menstruation.
- Certain medications including oral contraceptives.
- Lack of food or change in eating patterns.
Identifying and avoiding triggers can significantly reduce the frequency of attacks.
Treatments of a Migraine
There is no cure for migraine however a number of treatments can be used to combat symptoms.
Advice From The Pharmacist
- It is useful to try to identify triggers and avoid them where possible.
- Keep a migraine diary or use an app such as ‘Migraine Buddy’ or ‘HeadApp Migraine Diary’. This will help you to gather useful information which may identify triggers and help your doctor to understand your medication needs.
- Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
- A general healthy lifestyle including exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep patterns will help to reduce the frequency of attacks.