Not Just A Headache

Migraine Awareness Week 2nd – 8th September

Migraine Awareness week is an annual campaign to draw attention to migraines and educate the public.

Did you know that Migraines are the third most common disease in the world! That means 1 in 7 suffer from migraines.

Despite being recognised as one of the most disabling lifetime conditions, the awareness and understanding is low.

One of our colleagues that suffers with migraine has kindly shared her story and experiences of living with and suffering from migraines:

‘My parents believe that I have been suffering from migraine since I was around 18 months old, I would cry and hold my head, when I started to speak I would say my head hurts.  Throughout my childhood I missed many fun occasions like birthday and Christmas parties due to an attack and being home in bed or being sent to the sick bay at school.  I don’t even get a break from them when I go away on holiday, usually striking on our first day, with me ending up in bed and my husband un-packing and looking after the kids.

I spent a lot of my childhood at hospital appointments and have had many tests including a brain scan.  I’ve tried taking tablets every day to prevent an attack, tablets when an attack comes, I’ve excluded certain foods and drinks from my diet but nothing helps.

My attacks can happen at any time during the day or night, recently striking at around 3 to 4 am and waking me up.  I now take sumatriptan these work sometimes but not always.  An attack can stay with me for anything from a day to as long as a week, I try to battle it before giving up and putting myself to bed in a darkened room, with all of the windows open and a cold flannel covering my forehead and eyes.  I can’t eat during this time as the smell of food would make me vomit.

What I have learned about migraine is that it doesn’t like change to routines, sleep patterns and definitely not changes in light, I never leave home without a pair of sunglasses as even on the cloudiest day if the sun breaks through this can start an attack.  I don’t wear strong perfume as just walking through a perfume department can also set it off.

I’m now nearly fifty and although am awaiting an appointment with a neurologist, although I don’t hold out much hope and have accepted that migraine is just a part of my life.’

So what is a migraine and what are the causes?

Migraines are a disorder that has a genetic basis. It is hard to understand how a migraine occurs but recent studies suggest brain mechanisms are more likely to be involved in the development of migraine attacks.

So we know what is a migraine but what are the symptoms?

For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms can include disturbed vision/seeing flashing lights, sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. Migraine attacks can be very frightening and may result in a few hours or in extreme attacks days, of having to lie still in a darkened room. 

Is there a treatment for migraines?

There’s currently no cure for migraines, although a number of treatments are available to help ease the symptoms.

This includes:

  • Sleeping or lying in a darkened room
  • Eating sometimes helps
  • Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Seeing a specialist such as your GP

We hope you have learnt a lot about migraines and understand the affects people feel.

You can find out more information from the Migraine Trust here: www.migrainetrust.org