This coming week is Migraine Awareness Week here in the UK, brought to us by @themigrainetrust, so let’s take a look at migraine headaches.
A migraine is a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head typically aggravated by physical exertion, and lasting 6-72 hours; they can occur several times in per week, or once every few years. Many people also have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound; these symptoms may appear before the headache, alongside it; or even without any head pain at all. A migraine is not “just” a severe headache.
Migraines classically affect 20% of women and 7% of men; usually beginning in early adulthood.
Migraines usually have specific triggers, and the key to long-term management is to identify these, and avoiding or mitigating them wherever possible; which is often easier said than done. These triggers can often be cumulative as well, so you may be able to cope with 2-3; but add a 4th, and the migraine comes. Migraine brains can also be creatures of habit, with breaks from the usual routine being another potential trigger – especially if that break involves other triggers (eg. Someone who overslept, skipped breakfast, and stressed about getting to work on time –would count as 4 triggers, not just 3; which may be enough to bring on a migraine, even if that brain could cope with 2 or 3 of those).
Medication can also help significantly (usually the triptan group); but prevention is still preferable to cure. Migraines can be extremely debilitating whilst being suffered; though most people tend to find that both the severity and frequency reduces as they age; possibly as a result of identifying and avoiding their individual triggers.
As with tension and cervicogenic headaches, there is a large overlap with other headache types, so the incidence rate is probably higher than stated here.
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