Migraines affect the lives of 4.9 million Australians.
The International Headache Society defines a migraine as:
- Lasting between four and 72 hours
- Moderate to severe throbbing pain &/or affecting one side of the head at a time
- Causing one of these symptoms: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise.
Migraines may progress through four stages:
- Prodrome – 1 or 2 days before a migraine subtle changes include constipation, moodiness, food cravings, neck stiffness, insatiable thirst, frequent yawning.
- Aura – symptoms include flashes of light, blind spots, tingling on one side of face or arm.
- Attack – may last 72 hours if untreated.
- Post-drome – after an attack, you may feel drained (however some feel elated), confused, dizzy, sensitive to light and sound.
Migraine’s causes are not clear, however it’s commoner in women. Stress, poor sleep and missed meals also contribute as well as inheritance
Common triggers include:
- Dietary: caffeine, chocolate, aged cheeses, salty foods, processed foods, alcohol, dehydration.
- Environmental: work stress, bright lights, altitude, loud noises, overuse of screens.
- Hormonal (oestrogen) fluctuations during menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Physical: too little or too much sleep, illness, back & neck pain, vigorous exercise.
- Some medications.
Migraine treatment –
- It’s important to take your usual painkiller for migraine as soon as you feel one coming on. Don’t wait.
- Prescription medication – effectiveness varies greatly from patient to patient.
- Women should consider reducing medications that contain oestrogen.
- Establish a consistent daily routine – regular sleep and meal patterns.
- Avoid stress if possible.
- Look for possible triggers – using a diary may help.
- Aerobic exercise & maintain a healthy diet and body weight.
- Therapies such as nerve stimulation, acupuncture and Botox may help but more research is needed.
With the direct and indirect costs soaring to a whopping $35.7 billion ie $14.3 bn on health system, $16.3 bn on productivity, $5.3 bn on other indirect costs, we need to get on top of migraine through diagnosis, prevention and effective treatment.