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Help for Migraine Headache Sufferers

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Identifying a Migraine Headache

Migraines are very different from ordinary headaches in their intensity and in their duration.  Migraines are severe, throbbing headaches sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting.  Typically they occur on only one side of the head but it is not unknown for both sides to be affected.  Some sufferers experience visual disturbances that precede an attack, the migraine ‘aura’, blurred vision and flashes of light. Migraines can last from a few hours to several days and severely impact on the quality of life of the sufferer and their family.

What Causes a Migraine?

The causes of migraine are complex and are still being studied.  It is known that some people are genetically pre-disposed to migraines and that they tend to run in families.  Also women sufferers far outnumber men seeming to suggest a hormonal connection.  Common triggers for many people are citrus fruits, chocolate, alcohol, aged cheeses and other tyramine containing foods.  Overuse of caffeine and sudden caffeine withdrawal is also known to precipitate an attack.

Treatments Options

Treatment needs to be multidisciplinary.  Change of diet and reduction in the use of caffeine are simple preliminary measures.  Simple over the counter pain killers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (known as paracetamol in some countries) is sometimes effective taken right at the outset of an attack. Resting in a quiet and dark place helps to alleviate the length of time of a migraine episode.

In recent years a new family of drugs known as triptans have shown effectiveness in stopping a migraine attack.  This medication is not suitable for everyone and must be prescribed by your physician.  It is advisable to see your doctor if your headaches are getting stronger or more frequent to rule out any other possible medical problems.

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