Migraines: Causes & Cure

Migraines can be a painful experience, restricting sufferers from going about their daily routine. Fortunately, there are ways to treat migraines and even help prevent them.

What Are Migraines?

Migraines are suffered by one adult in seven in the UK and women are three times more susceptible to them than men. They are a type of severe headache, but those who get them are also likely to suffer from sickness, vomiting and increased light sensitivity. The most common types are classic migraines and common migraines. Classic migraines are also known as ‘migraines with aura’ as they come with warning symptoms before the migraine hits. These symptoms include sight problems such as blurred vision or temporary blindness, numbness or a tingling feeling like pins and needles, slurred speech, inability to concentrate and co-ordination problems.

What Causes Migraines?

It is still not fully understood why migraines develop; however, doctors believe they may be linked to serotonin, which is a chemical produced in the human body. Low levels of serotonin can cause changes to the brain’s blood vessels, but what can cause these levels to change is still unknown. There are various triggers for migraines, including stress, loud noises, bright or flickering lights, missing meals and not drinking enough fluids, certain foods or drinks (such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol) or strenuous exercise if someone is unaccustomed to it. Women may also suffer migraines during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause due to hormonal changes.

Treatment and Prevention

Keeping a diary of when migraines occur and including information on symptoms, severity, duration and any medication used to treat them can help someone spot possible triggers so that they know to avoid them in future. If a migraine hits, lying down in a quiet, dark room with a hot or cold compress applied to the head can help someone recover faster.

 

Taking medicines such as painkillers can help; however, it is best to not take them too often as eventually they will lose their effectiveness. Instead of preventing them, taking medicines too often can actually cause headaches in some cases. Over-the-counter medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help ease the symptoms of a migraine. Medicines with anti-emetics, those used to help stop nausea, can be a help if someone is feeling sick or vomiting.

Easing stress, one of the triggers of migraines, can help to prevent them. Relaxation CDs or exercises such as yoga can help with this. Likewise, keeping active by getting enough exercise every week can help prevent someone from getting migraines. If migraines are frequent and severe a doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent or treat them if over-the-counter medication does not work. Many migraine medications will not be suitable to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Of course, if the symptoms of a migraine last too long or if migraines are becoming more frequent or severe every month it is best to consult a doctor. The same can be said if someone experiences a migraine when he has never had one before. A doctor should always be consulted if someone is unsure about any sort of health issue, whether it is migraines or anything else.

Post written and submitted by Zoe, a health blogger who is currently writing for Nuffield Health Careers.

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