Migraine is a complex neurological condition which affects 1 in 7 people in the UK and three-times as many women as men which is likely attributed to hormones.
The symptoms can be disabling for those who suffer from them and they are one of the biggest causes of work absenteeism, costing the UK economy £3.42 billion per year with 25 million lost days.
Migraine is ranked globally as the seventh most disabling disease amongst all diseases and is the least publicly funded neurological illnesses in respect to its economic impact. Dr John Janssen, consultant neurologist at award winning brain and mind clinic Re:Cognition Health gives his top 10 tips for dealing with and managing migraines.
1. Diarise your migraines to identify the triggers. You will then be able to make lifestyle changes to avoid these. Record factors including the duration, medications that have and have not worked, severity of headache, menstrual cycle (if applicable), the location and type of pain, symptoms (vomiting, noise / light sensitivity) and the ability to perform tasks e.g. not able to walk, work, restricted vision etc.
2. Review key lifestyle factors that may also be playing a part in the onset of a migraine including diet (common foods that can trigger migraines including cheese, wine, fruits, chocolate and nuts), alcohol, caffeine, dehydration and exercise.
3. Research family history of migraine and headaches and understand what has and hasn’t worked in treating family members – this could unlock the key to individual treatment and triggers.
4. Review your painkillers – if you take a lot of painkillers for your migraines, you paradoxically may end up making the situation worse by causing medication overuse headache so try and “detox” from painkillers to see if the situation improves.
5. Painkillers are not always the answer, and if you're having disabling headaches, then seek medical advice.
6. Consult your GP – you may need more than one appointment as the GP will also need to perform a physical examination so they can check for abnormality of the nervous system, neck tension, blood pressure and eye examination to make sure there is no evidence of raised intracranial pressure. They will be able to review your diary and help with working out a pattern.
7. Review previous medical and drug history as this may influence headaches and migraines.
8. Request a specialist referral if first line treatment from the GP is insufficient.
9. Be prepared – if you can feel the onset of a migraine, be prepared to manage it – have lots of water and your medication to hand, prepare a dark, quiet room for sleeping and resting. Some find the sensory distraction provided by a wet cloth helps soothe the head.
10. Be informed – there is an abundance of online resources and support, so it’s advisable to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Ensure your work, family and friends are aware of your condition for additional support.