– The word migraine is derived from the Greek word meaning “pain involving half the head”. It affects at least 1 out of 10 people, mostly females and peaks between the ages of 20 and 50 years.
– Headache is a very common complaint in general practice.
– 85% of the population will have experienced headache withn 1 year.
– Migraine affects at least 10% of the adult population and ¼ of these patients require medical attention for their attacks at some stage.
– 5% of children suffer from migraine by the age of 11 years.
– 70% of sufferers have a positive family history of migraine.
What’s an aura?
Aura is the symptoms preceeding a migraine headache. It is one of the signs of a classical migrain and occurs in 15-20% of people with migraines. It usually starts 20 – 40 minutes before the actual migraine comes, so in most people it’s a warning sign of a migraine attack. There is a very wide range of symptoms which can be an aura. From ringing in the ears, dizziness, to bizzare symptoms such as smelling bad odour, slurred speech, yawning, etc. So far, there is no clear explanation why aura happens,but scientist try to make a theory: In migraine, blood vessels and blood flow in your head is affected. For some time, doctors believe that decreased blood flow to brain cells (and so a decrease in oxygen) may cause aura. Doctors now also believe that over-excitement of the brain cells may also be a cause.
Signs of possibly serious conditions.
– Sudden onset
– Severe and debilitating pain
– Disturbed consciousness
– Feeling worse with bending or coughing
– Maximum onset/pain in morning
– Neurological symptoms / signs
– New in elderly persons > 50 years.
With these signs, you should seek medical attention first before trying to cure your headache.
What to do:
– Start treatment as soon as you feel the aura
– Rest in a quiet, darkened, cool room.
– Place cold packs on the forehead or neck.
– Avoid drinking coffee, tea or orange juice.
– Avoid moving around too much.
– Do not read or watch television.
For mild symptoms, you may try to take over the counter medications, i.e. paracetamol, aspirin and rest in a quiet, dark, cool room.
For moderate attacks, your doctor might prescribe some tablets, i.e. ergotamin, sumatriptan, etc.
For severe attacks, you will need to seek medical attention for stronger medication and possible injection therapy.
When the attacks are frequent, being two or more migraine attacks per month, or when the headache does not improve with the conventional medications, your doctor might consider prophylactic therapy. Some medications originally developed for epilepsy, depression, or high blood pressure are sometimes given. Some women found relief after taking hormone therapy for migraines related with their menstrual cycle. Avoiding food and beverages that trigger headaches is also helpful. Lifestyle changes can reduce or prevent migraine, such as eating regularly scheduled meals with adequate hydration, stopping certain medications and establishing a consistent sleep schedule. A weight loss program is recommended for obese individuals who suffer from migraines.
Most migraines are not life threatening, however it can affect one’s quality of life. The treatment and prevention can be challenging. So you should have good communication and discussion with your doctor to find the best treatment that is suitable for you.