For most people, a headache was occasionally and can be quickly cured with something to eat or drink, a short rest or a couple of painkillers.
Migraines, however, are much more than just a headache. The Migraine Action Association says that migraines are the most common neurological (nerve related) condition in the developed world. They affect more than 15% of the UK population. Around two thirds of migraines are in women. Migraines affect more people than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. Attacks, which can last from 4 to 72 hours, can be completely disabling, and can prevent people from carrying out their usual activities for up to 3 days. Even when they don’t have symptoms, people affected may live in fear of the next attack.
There is no cure for migraines, but it is possible to control them with a range of treatments. However, what’s successful for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to keep trying different treatments until you find one that works for you.
Around 10% of people who have migraines also experience aura symptoms. These disturbances start 15 minutes, to an hour, before the headache. They can include blindspots, flashing lights, zigzag patterns, tingling, pins and needles, or numbness in the limbs.
Causes of Migraine
Migraines are believed to be caused by the release of a chemical called Serotonin into the bloodstream, resulting in changes in the brain. Exactly what causes this to happen is still subject to research and debate. However, certain factors that can trigger attacks in susceptible people have been identified. These include:
- Emotional stress such as anger, tension or shock
- Physical stress such as overexertion or travelling
- Diet, such as infrequent meals, alcohol (especially red wine), coffee, cheeses or additives.
- Environmental causes such as supermarket lights, computer screens, smoking all loud noise.
- Hormonal causes, such as puberty, menstruation for pregnancy.
- High Blood Pressure, eyestrain and overuse of sleeping tablets.
Migraine and Botox®
One very effective, but lesser-known, migraine treatment is with Botox®. Injections of Botulinum toxin have been used by doctors to treat migraine successfully for years but treatment is not usually available on the NHS, so a lot of people are unaware of it. A series of tiny injections is made across the upper forehead, temples and back of the head (occiput). The treatment can completely stop migraine attacks in 60% of cases and improve them in 40%. and lasts approximately four months.