What are migraines?
A migraine is a moderate to severe type of headache that can be described as feeling a throbbing pain on one side of the head. Migraines are not usually limited to just a headache, a lot of people often experience other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to light). Migraines are a common health condition that affects around 20% of women and 10% of men in the UK. People begin to experience migraines in early adulthood. Migraines can last from 4 hours to 3 days.
Migraines vary in symptoms for each individual, primarily because there are many different types of migraine. Migraine with aura is a common type of migraine. This type of migraine gives a ‘warning sign’ just before the migraine is about to happen, the warning sign is usually described as seeing flashing lights or an ‘aura’, hence the name. There are also migraines without aura, which are the most common type of migraine, where the migraine happens without any warning signs at all. Migraine aura without headache (silent migraine) is a type of migraine where you see an aura or flashing lights and experience some of the other symptoms associated with migraine, but you do not experience a headache. The ‘silent migraine’ is not as common as the types described previous.
The frequency of migraines can vary from person to person, where some people can experience migraines several times a week and others only having them occasionally.
What causes migraines?
The specific causes with regards to why migraines manifest or why they happen in general remains unclear. It is hypothesised that changes in vasculature, nerves and chemicals in the brain can be the root cause of people developing migraines later in life, post-adolescence. Previously it was thought that changes in blood flow to the brain were the sole contributing factor to developing migraines, however new data, research and imaging has debunked this theory. The latest research suggests that there are inherited ‘mutations’ in the brain that lead to people having migraines.
The causes of susceptibility to migraines is currently unknown, but things that can ‘trigger’ a migraine have been widely documented and are well known now. The triggers are largely the same across the board, however they vary from person to person. Some triggers include being over-tired, stressed, periods, changes in weather, bright lights and changes to a sleeping pattern.
The physiology and biochemistry of a migraine headache is a little more complex. Migraines manifest when nerve cells send amplified signals to branched nerves responsible for sensation in your face, head and neck. This stimulation leads to a release of serotonin and a peptide (small molecule) that is responsible for some of the sensation. The release of this peptide and serotonin leads to marginal brain swelling, leading to pain and some of the other peripheral symptoms linked to migraines.
How can I treat migraines?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines, however there are several treatments available to take care of the symptoms. Since pain is one of the main issues associated with migraines, over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol have been shown to be effective. Another way to treat migraines is through the use of a class of medications known as ‘triptans’. Triptans work by ‘reversing’ the changes in the brain that may have been the root cause of the development of migraines. Antiemetics (anti-sickness) medicines are commonly used to treat the nausea that occurs whilst having a migraine. Laying down in a dimly lit or dark room can also help in reducing and slowly relieving the symptoms.
Cloud Pharmacy offers a reliable, safe and quick service for the treatment of migraines. For further advice, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via the phone to discuss your treatment and to talk about any other adjustments that potentially can be made.