What is migraine?

Migraine is a type of headache, classically characterised by severe pain over one side of the head, visual disturbances, and vomiting. However, there is a great deal of variation in the symptoms between sufferers

What causes migraine?
There is no one single cause of migraine, but, in susceptible individuals, the following are common triggers:
* Emotional stress.
* Physical stress.
* Certain foods. Common triggers are chocolate, cheese, alcohol, food containing monosodium glutamate, and coffee.
* Bright or flickering lights, loud noises.
* Changes in the weather.
* Hormone fluctuations, for example, related to the menstrual cycle, taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.
* Dental problems.

How is migraine diagnosed?
Migraine can be difficult to diagnose as there is no test for the condition, and there can be considerable variation in symptoms. Some detective work by you and your doctor may be required.

How is migraine treated?
The best treatment is prevention, by avoiding underlying triggers, but this is not always possible. Drugs can be extremely helpful both in the treatment and prevention of migraine. The main types of drug include painkillers, anti-sickness preparations, preparations containing ergotamine tartrate, and 5HT agonists. It may take some ‘trial and error’ to find the treatment that works best for you.

Is there anything I can do to help myself?
Try to work out what triggers your attacks and avoid them if possible. About 10% of migraine sufferers have some pre-warning that they are about to have an attack – this is known as the aura. If you do get a warning, take some painkillers without delay, and try, if possible, to rest in a quiet darkened room. Learning a relaxation technique can also help. Some sufferers find complementary therapies helpful.

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