Migraine is often misunderstood as just a bad headache, but what is it really? We don’t know what causes migraine, but what we do know is that migraine is a neurological condition that impacts our nervous system by causing temporary changes to the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in our brain.1-3
When a migraine attack starts, it may not be an easy thing for you to manage because migraine attacks vary from person to person.4 The migraine attacks you experience can also be different to ones you’ve had before.4 You could have a migraine attack that lasts a few hours or several days.4 Sometimes your migraine attacks can be infrequent, happening once in a while, such as every few months or years apart,2,5 or you could experience migraine attacks more regularly.3
A migraine attack is typically felt as an intense, throbbing headache, usually to one side of the head.3 You may experience nausea and/or sensitivity to light or sound.2,3 The impact of migraine depends on the severity and frequency of attacks. For some, a migraine can be completely incapacitating, resulting in people having to miss out on aspects of everyday life.3
Migraine is a common condition, with around one in seven people globally experiencing regular attacks.6 Migraine is more prevalent in women than in men.3 Migraine attacks usually begin in early adulthood and most people affected are aged between 25 and 55.2,6,7
Your migraine symptoms can vary, but most people with migraine often report feeling nauseous, sensitive to light, sounds and smells, or have difficulty concentrating.2,3,8 You can also experience an ‘aura’ at the onset of a migraine.2,8 Migraine aura symptoms can be described as flashes of light or blind spots, dizziness, numbness, tingling or problems with speech.8
Learn more about migraine symptoms.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEADACHE AND MIGRAINE?
Professor Sabina Brennan, a psychologist specializing in brain health from Trinity College Dublin, explains the difference between headache and migraine, migraine’s potential impact on daily life, and migraine symptoms and triggers.
There has been a lot of research into the condition, but we still don’t fully understand what causes migraine.1 Some research suggests family history, or genetics, may play a role.1,3
Migraine attacks are often brought on by triggers.2 Your migraine triggers, or combination of triggers, are specific to you.2,9 One attack could be triggered by stress, or another may be triggered by certain foods you eat.2,4
Other known migraine triggers can include certain beverages, dehydration, low blood sugar or hormonal changes.2,4,9 Your surroundings, such as flashing lights or even the weather, can also bring on a migraine attack.10
Learn more about migraine causes and triggers.
It can be frightening to experience a migraine attack,4 but with the help of your doctor you can find ways to help manage living with migraine. Even though there are a limited number of drugs available to effectively treat migraine2, we’ve put together some information on the management and treatment of migraine that may help prevent or alleviate the severity of your attacks.
Yes. You may have migraine symptoms that are different from someone else’s because there isn’t just one type of migraine.4 You could experience migraine without aura, or migraine with aura.2,4
If you experience migraine with aura, but you don’t get a headache, you may have had what’s called a “silent migraine”.2 Migraine symptoms also aren’t isolated to the head – abdominal migraine symptoms affect your stomach.7
There are many different types of migraine and diagnosis of a specific type is determined by the frequency and types of symptoms you have.4
Learn more about the different migraines and their symptoms in types of migraine.
- NHS Choices. Migraine – Causes http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Causes.aspx [Last Accessed: November 2018]
- NHS Choices. Migraine. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Last Accessed: November 2018]
- Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine fact sheets. http://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/ [Last accessed: November 2018]
- The Migraine Trust. More than ‘just a headache’. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine- what-is-it/more-than-just-a-headache/ [Last Accessed: November 2018]
- National Migraine Centre. Migraine and headaches. http://www.nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk/migraine-and-headaches/ [Last accessed: November 2018]
- The Migraine Trust. Facts and Figures. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/facts-figures/ [Last accessed: November 2018]
- Lipton et al. Migraine: Epidemiology, Impact, and Risk Factors for Progression. Headache 2005; 45: S3-S13
- NHS Choices. Migraine Symptoms. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Symptoms.aspx [Last accessed: November 2018]
- The Migraine Trust. Chronic Migraine. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/types-of-migraine/chronic-migraine/ [Last Accessed: November 2018]
- NHS Choices. 10 Headache Triggers. http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/headaches/pages/headachetriggers.aspx [Last accessed: November 2018]
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