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Migraine Awareness Week

This week is migraine awareness week! In the UK it is estimated that 6 million people suffer from migraines, with 190,000 migraine attacks taking place every day in England alone.

Migraines are said to be three times more common in women than men. It is relatively uncommon for children to experience migraines. In the UK, 3-10% of children experience migraines. Migraines develop more commonly after puberty. Of the children that suffer from migraines, 33% of children said that the treatment of their migraine was poor.

Annually for adults, it is estimated that 86 million workdays are lost because of migraines. A big important part of the migraine awareness week is getting other people to treat this condition seriously.

What is a migraine? The symptoms of a migraine include a throbbing or pulsing painful headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and sensitivity to sound. Some sufferers have a warning that a migraine is about to begin in the form of an aura. This manifests as flashes of light or blind spots in their vision. Other symptoms such as tingling to one side of the face, tingling in an arm or leg, or difficulty speaking can all be warnings that a migraine is about to start. However, not all sufferers get a warning a migraine is about to start.

Migraines can be triggered by many different things and each person has their own triggers. Strong emotional responses such as depression, shock, anxiety, stress, and excitement can trigger migraines with the changes in neurotransmitters.

Hormonal changes are known to trigger migraines. Serotonin level changes can cause migraines in both men and women. Changes in oestrogen coinciding with the menstrual cycle often trigger migraines in women. This is why some women find their migraines improve after the menopause.

Migraines can also have physical triggers such as tiredness, poor-quality sleep, jet lag, low blood sugar, missed meals, delayed meals, and exercise.

Our diet also plays a big part in triggering migraines. Dehydration, alcohol, caffeine, specific foods, and foods containing tyramine. Tyramine is a substance found in foods such as cured meats, yeast, pickled herrings, smoked fish, and certain cheeses.

We don’t actually know the mechanism behind migraines. It used to be thought that fluctuations in blood flow in the brain caused pain. It has since been disproved. Migraines continue to be an area of research.

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