Migraines are headaches which can be extremely painful. They may impair your judgement, your movements, and make it difficult to perform basic everyday tasks. When you have a headache you may be able to soothe it by taking over the counter painkillers, but migraines need treatment and medical monitoring.
Some migraines are preceded by what’s known as an ‘aura’. Aura symptoms can be almost as unpleasant as the migraine headache, and include seeing flashing lights, zig-zag lines or black patches that aren’t there, having a heightened sensitivity to noise and light, and feeling numbness in one hand, which can extend to the arm and face. All these aura symptoms can be seen as early signs of a migraine.
Experiencing an aura doesn’t happen in every case, and many people never get them at all. There’s also a third group of people who may get aura symptoms but never get a headache. This is called a silent migraine.
Who gets migraines?
Anyone can get them at any point. But some studies show that women are much more likely to suffer from migraines than men. This condition is also much more prevalent in people that have a family history of migraines.
Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, there are a few known possible triggers such as high levels of stress, irregular sleep patterns and not getting enough sleep, or too much alcohol or caffeine consumption.
How common are migraines?
Migraines are the most common cause of recurrent headaches. Although they can be genetic, any person can experience them in response to emotional, physical or environmental triggers. It’s thought that migraines are experienced by at least 20% of women, and over 10% of men at some point in their lives.
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What causes migraines?
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but there are theories such as them being the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain.
Migraines often have triggers, and they’ll be different for everyone. There can be emotional, physical and environmental triggers, so to try and pinpoint what your triggers are you need to log and evaluate everything that has changed for you leading up to the migraines.
A common trigger, for example, is hormonal changes, particularly in women. Around the time a woman gets their period, they experience hormonal fluctuations especially oestrogen, which causes migraines. When that’s the case, they might find that their migraines get better post-menopause.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
The symptoms will vary depending on the type of migraine you’re experiencing. There are three types of migraine: migraine with aura, silent migraine, and migraine headache without aura. Although each can have many side effects, you might not feel all of them, as everyone experiences them differently.
Migraine with aura
Temporary visual disturbances
Sensitivity to light and sound
Intense headache, usually on one side of the head only
Taste and hearing disturbances
Nausea and vomiting
Hot flashes and chills
Sensitivity to light and sound
Migraine without aura
Intense headache, usually on one side of the head only
Light and noise sensitivity
What medications are there for migraines?
There’s no cure for migraines, but the right treatment can help make the symptoms manageable. The most common treatments offered for migraines are tablets which offer pain relief. Sometimes you might be given tablets to take whenever you get a migraine, or you may take tablets on a daily basis that can help decrease the frequency of migraines. Or a combination of the two.
If you have trouble swallowing or just prefer not to take tablets, there are also nasal sprays or tablets that melt in the mouth to treat symptoms.
Is there a ‘best’ treatment for migraines?
No one treatment can be considered the ‘best’ as such, because all treatments affect people differently, and some work better than others depending on your specific health needs. Our clinician can advise and help you find a suitable treatment that works well for you.
Some studies have compared the efficiency of different treatments. For example, a study has compared the migraine prevention medications melatonin 3mg and amitriptyline 25mg against a placebo, and found that both the melatonin and the amitriptyline are effective when compared to the placebo. But when compared to each other, melatonin is better overall and it’s more tolerable.
Ultimately, no matter what treatment you use, it’s agreed that physical activity, trigger avoidance, and behaviour and lifestyle changes play a central role in the prevention and treatment of migraines.
Do migraines always need treatment?
Whether or not you need treatment will depend on how severe your migraines are and how much they affect your daily life. If you notice a particular pattern and can find specific triggers for your migraines, you might even be able to avoid them altogether. This is often easier said than done, but if you can find a way to manage your migraines that way, you will be able to avoid having to take medication.
When you get a migraine it might seem inevitable to take painkillers, but taking painkillers too often can increase the frequency and severity of headaches and migraines in the long term. So if you’re experiencing migraines often, you should seek treatment, rather than continuing to take painkillers.
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How are migraines diagnosed?
If you started experiencing migraines recently and are not looking for treatment, you must see a clinician so they can formally diagnose you and rule out any serious health problems that could be causing the migraines.
Migraines can sometimes be diagnosed by doing some physical exams involving your reflexes, vision and coordination. You will also be asked specific questions about the nature and severity of your migraines to help with diagnosis. For example, you may be asked where the pain is focused, whether it’s throbbing or sharp pain, and whether or not you get an aura, and if you get any symptoms associated with it.
One thing you should do is keep a daily record of your migraine symptoms, both to help a clinician identify a pattern and to see if there could be a trigger such as a specific medication or stressful situation. If the migraines happen too often and treatment isn’t working, you may be referred to a headache specialist.
Are there different types of migraines?
There are three different types of migraine: migraines with aura, migraines without aura and silent migraines.
Migraines with aura are migraine headaches preceded by warning signs such as visual disturbances and dizziness. Migraines without aura are migraine headaches that develop without showing signs beforehand, and silent migraines develop as warning signs, only without a headache developing afterwards.
The treatment for these types of migraines is the same, as well as the triggers and risk factors.
Are there tests for migraines?
As of yet, there are no tests for migraines. To get an accurate diagnosis, you would need to speak to a clinician and identify a pattern of recurring headaches and associated symptoms. You can do this by logging every migraine you get onto an app or calendar a few weeks before you set up an appointment.
Can migraines lead to other problems?
In the short term, migraines can severely affect someone’s quality of life, to the point of hindering their ability to perform basic tasks or even leave them bedridden for days at a time.
In the long term, migraines have been linked to an increased likelihood of suffering an ischaemic stroke, but the reason for that is unknown and the risk is relatively low.
Migraines are also associated with an increase in the risk of developing psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Can you get side effects from migraine treatment?
All medications come with possible side effects, but that’s not a guarantee that you will experience any. As for migraine treatment medication, different products will come with different potential side effects. But most of these products will have a few side effects in common like drowsiness, flushing, or tenderness of the fingers and toes.
You can find detailed side effects for specific treatments on our product pages, or speak to one of our clinicians about your concerns and they’ll find the best medication for you.
Do migraine treatments always work?
When you first start your migraine treatment, it can be a case of some trial and error. You might have to try a few different medications before you find one that helps, but most people usually find something that works for them. The goal is to find effective pain relief, and our clinician can help you with that.
It’s always good to keep in mind that overusing migraine medication can actually lead to more frequent migraines, and even make them more severe than before. So you need to be careful not to use too much medication. Instead, use it only when you’re experiencing an active migraine or when you experience an aura.
Why should I buy migraine treatment online with Treated?
We’re making healthcare personalised. Talk to us about your health, and we’ll advise you on treatments that are safe and suitable for you. You can then choose your medication from our options, and how often you’d like us to send it to you too. As well as the quantity of treatment each time.
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a doctor.
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