DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Hill
Migraines affect eight million people in the UK and the World Health Organisation has rated it among the most disabling lifetime conditions.
But it’s still very much a misunderstood condition, which at its worst can leave people incapacitated for 24 hours – with sufferers often reporting they have to lie down in a darkened room for two or three hours.
At their most frightening migraines cripple the ability to function, causing headaches, nausea, sudden vision loss, ringing in the ears and the appearance of zigzag lines. An estimated 25million days are lost from work or school every year because of migraines.
Recovery from a migraine may not be quick, either, with sufferers saying they feel tired and drawn out for days afterwards.
Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and aspirin, can ease the symptoms in most cases. However changes in diet such as chocolate, eating cheese, red wine and being in stressful situations and hormonal changes can also play their part in bringing on a migraine.
So, make sure you arrange an appointment with your GP who will help you manage your condition.
Non-medical treatments, such as acupuncture and cognitive therapy, are offered to people who have persistent and frequent severe headaches.
There are two common types of migraine: ‘migraine with aura’ and ‘migraine without aura’.
In the former sufferers experience a warning sign known as an ‘aura’ before the migraine begins. This is commonly a visual problem such as flashing lights or the appearance of zigzag lines in the field of vision, but other senses such as hearing and smell can be affected to, and sufferers can also report a wide variety of strange feelings and even thoughts.
One of the best ways of preventing migraines is recognising the things that trigger an attack. Keeping a migraine diary is helpful. You may find you tend to have a migraine after eating certain foods or when you are stressed. By avoiding this trigger, you can help to prevent a migraine.
You should see your GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms that cannot be controlled with over the counter painkillers.
You should also make an appointment to see your GP if you have frequent migraines (on more than five days a month), even if they can be controlled with medication, as you may benefit from preventative treatment.
More help on migraines is available from www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Prevention.aspx