When people hear the word migraine, they often think of an extra painful headache. Some might even think the term ‘migraine’ is an overly dramatic way of describing a bad headache.
But migraines are not simply bad headaches. They are a specific type of headache which often requires specific migraine treatment.
What’s more, migraines are more common than you may think. Around 1 in 5 Australians will suffer migraines at some point in their lives.
Migraine symptoms can cause massive disruptions to life, and can prevent or reduce participation in work, school or family activities.
A migraine is a neurological condition that is sometimes very distressing and disabling. Some of the common migraine symptoms may include:
Migraine symptoms can last from around 4 hours to up to 3 days.
Migraine can be divided into 5 distinct phases: prodromol (early warning signs), aura, headache, resolution and postdromol (recovery). Let’s take a look at the features of these phases:
Some people experience early warning signs of a migraine attack. This is called the prodromal phase and can include:
Around 20-30% of people experience visual disturbances before a migraine attack. This is known as aura. People with migraines have described aura as:
Normal vision usually comes back after the aura phase, or after the headache phase.
This is the phase most commonly associated with migraines.
The head pain is often pulsing and located on one side of the head (but can affect both sides). Movement usually makes the pain worse.
Often, it’s the accompanying symptoms that are most distressing and limiting. These include nausea and vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light, sound and smell.
Often, a migraine ends during sleep. Sometimes people feel better after vomiting, especially children. For others, effective migraine treatment can provide relief or conclude the current attack.
For a few people, intervention is not helpful, and they just need to wait for the headache to ‘burn out’.
Most people feel relieved once the headache and nausea have passed. But some people report feeling drained for about 24 hours afterward. Other people report feeling energetic and alive.
Clinical researchers have not yet agreed on what causes a migraine. The best theory found from recent research suggests:
It’s unclear why these processes happen to some people and not others. One common risk factor is a family history of migraines.
Migraines also tend to be more common in women than men. And both children and adults can experience them.
There are a variety of triggers that can cause migraines, but some of the common ones include:
If you think you have—or have had—a migraine, you should talk to a doctor. A doctor will want to ask you some questions about your migraine symptoms. They may recommend certain tests to investigate other potential health problems that could be causing your migraines.
If you’ve been diagnosed with migraine before and your symptoms change, you should speak to a doctor. If you start having more frequent migraine attacks you should also speak to a doctor.
Doctors can’t cure migraines, but they can give you medicines that help you manage your migraine symptoms. These include:
For some, these types of medicines don’t get rid of migraines.
If so, a doctor may suggest you try a targeted migraine medicine that you should take as soon as the headache phase starts. These are known as ‘triptans’. This migraine treatment helps constrict blood vessels and is specifically targeted to migraines. This means they don’t work for other types of headaches, like tension headaches.
If you need to talk to a doctor, or want to request a script for migraine medicine, InstantScripts’ doctors can help.
You can try these migraine relief strategies to help ease the pain:
While it’s impossible to control all potential migraine causes and triggers, you can make some intentional changes to your lifestyle that may be beneficial:
Some people who are prone to migraine also find it useful to keep a headache diary. This can help you and your doctor identify migraine causes. A diary can also help work out the best type of migraine treatment for you.
Millions of people world-wide suffer from migraine. You are not alone. If you’re interested in the latest research and recommendations for migraine, you can attend the 2021 Migraine World Summit.
Running from March 18–26, the summit is the largest worldwide virtual event for migraine and headache disorders.
With 32 experts, including doctors and specialists, you’ll discover cutting-edge information on: