Suffering from migraines and want to learn what signs to look out for and how to treat it, we can help!
Migraine is common in Australia, with an estimated 4.9 million people suffering from the condition. Most migraine sufferers are women (71%), particularly during the working-age years (86%).
Neurologist and expert for Chronic Migraine, Dr. Bronwyn Jenkins, explains migraine can increase in frequency to become chronic in 7.61% of the Australian population. Migraine is the leading cause of lost time from activities in the world and can affect all aspects of a person’s life- including being unable to participate in work, family and social activities. And yet, it is still often under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated.
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So how do we recognise migraine? The headache in migraine can be described as throbbing or pulsating sensation, often on one side of the head and it may be moderate to severe in intensity. Typically, it can occur for 4 hours to 3 days, if not treated. One of the most differentiating features is that it can be worsened by routine physical activity such as walking. Migraine is not just a headache- there can also be sensitivity to light or sound, nausea and, if severe, vomiting. You don’t have to have all of these features to be classified as having a migraine, but there are usually a couple of these symptoms. Some people with migraine have distinctive neurological symptoms such as visual changes before the headache which is called aura, but this is not required for a diagnosis of migraine.
When migraine becomes more frequent, it is called chronic migraine. Interestingly, chronic migraine can have frequent bland headaches as well as the more clearly migrainous headaches. In other words, not necessarily all the headaches need to be migraines, but at least 8 days each month have some features of migraine.
If we talk about how exactly chronic migraine is defined, the criteria below are used to diagnose chronic migraines:
· 15 or more days of headaches each month including
· 8 or more days of headaches that have features of migraines each month
· Occurring or 3 or more months
If you’re suffering from migraine or, even worse, chronic migraines, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are a number of different approaches to managing your headaches. One way is through lifestyle changes such as having regular sleep habits, exercise, a balanced diet and avoiding common triggers (some common ones can include caffeine, alcohol, strong odors, dehydration, poor sleep, and stress). There are also medical options to use during a migraine attack, including analgesics for pain relief, antinausea medications to stop vomiting and triptans which are migraine-specific abortive treatments. To decrease the frequency and severity, migraine preventors may be prescribed which include an array of oral medications or injectable treatments to modify the neurotransmitters in the brain that are causing the migraines.
Diagnosis of migraine is simple, but the treatment may be more complex. Management should be individualised and therefore should always be discussed with your doctor. The doctor should be able to confirm your migraines and in some cases may refer you to a migraine specialist to develop a treatment plan suited to you and your specific preferences and needs.
To find out more information about migraines, there are useful organisations and websites, including Headache Australia (https://headacheaustralia.org.au/), the Australian and New Zealand Headache Society (https://anzhs.org/) and www.chronicmigrainehelp.com.au. These resources can
give you more details about migraine, with useful materials for you and your doctor. Migraine matters so don’t ignore it and improve your quality of life by managing it well.