If you’ve ever experienced severe pressure or pain in your head, you may be left thinking that it’s ‘just a bad headache’. Whilst this may be the case, the pain could also be a sign of something more severe – like a migraine.

A migraine is much more than ‘just a bad headache’. It can affect your entire body and have a huge impact on how, and if, you are able to carry out everyday activities.

In support of Migraine Awareness Week this week, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions in the hope that it will help sufferers and non-sufferers alike better understand this often-misunderstood condition.

What is migraine and what are the symptoms?

A migraine is a neurological condition that is frequently characterised by an intense, debilitating headache on one side of your head. Many people also experience additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and an increased sensitivity to light or sound.

The exact symptoms that you encounter can depend on the type of migraine you suffer from. These include:

  • Migraine with aura (‘classic’) Sufferers experience specific ‘warning signs’ just before the headache begins. These include seeing flashing lights, feeling unusual sensations in your face, arms, or legs, and difficulty with your speech.
  • Migraine without aura (‘common’)As the name suggests, this is the most common type and occurs without any specific warning signs.
  • Migraine aura without headache (‘silent’) Sufferers experience aura symptoms, but the headache itself does not develop.

What causes migraines?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of migraines is unknown, though the NHS states that they’re thought to be the ‘result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain’. It’s also believed that most sufferers are genetically predisposed to them (meaning they have a close relative with the condition).

Despite the cause itself being very unclear, some people who are susceptible may find that their migraines are associated with certain triggers. These can include:

  • Stress
  • Certain foods or drinks (or lack of)
  • Tiredness
  • Hormonal changes in women – starting their period, menopause, and even some contraceptives

Can migraines be treated?

Whilst there is currently no cure for migraines, there are a number of treatments available that help sufferers manage and reduce their symptoms.

These include:

  • Painkillers – such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, which help relieve the pain caused by the headache itself (though these shouldn’t be used as a long-term treatment)
  • Triptans – which can help reverse the changes in the brain that may cause migraines
  • Anti-emetics – these are used to help relieve people’s nausea or vomiting

If you are looking for a drug free alternative, the QTECH Patch by QTECH Science can be used to  help relieve pain caused by migraines and tension headaches.

Can migraine be prevented?

It may not always be obvious what is the cause of your migraine, so a headache diary is a good way to help determine whether there’s a pattern to your attacks.

As part of your diary, try and note down the following:

  • What food and drink you’ve had
  • What activities you’ve done
  • How much sleep you got
  • Whether anything particularly stressful happened

If your diary indicates that your migraines are triggered by a certain stress or type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.

References

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/

The Migraine Trust – https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/more-than-just-a-headache/

Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine#nausea