Migraine Information for Women (and Men!)
Everyone experiences a bad headache now and then – whether it’s caused by dehydration, a bad cold or just a little too much weekend indulgence. But for one in every five women, and one in every 15 men in the UK, that headache comes in the form of a migraine and is accompanied by intense pain, vomiting and even visual hallucinations. With such symptoms, daily life can become incredibly challenging.
Though it’s not known precisely what causes migraines, the condition is more common in women. Hormonal changes related to oestrogen levels in the body have long been recognised as significant, as many women experience migraine onset around the time of their period or find that their symptoms alter after menopause. Recent research has helped to cement this theory, with one study finding that in women who suffer from migraines, oestrogen levels drop more rapidly than usual at the start of their menstrual cycle.
This is significant, because plunging oestrogen levels before menstruation already contribute to mood swings and other unpleasant premenstrual symptoms. Oestrogen levels falling more rapidly could worsen symptoms such as stress and lack of sleep, in turn leading to migraine-triggering habits like eating unhealthy foods and drinking alcohol.
In simple terms, what the study points to is a "two-hit" process, whereby women who already suffer from migraines have their condition exacerbated by their rapidly falling oestrogen levels.
The good news is that there are ways to combat the unpleasant symptoms of a migraine. But the first step towards treatment is understanding a little more about its causes and symptoms.
What causes a migraine?
As we've seen, the exact causes of migraine are still unknown. However, research in recent years has seemed to confirm that genes play a role.
If you are susceptible to migraines, it’s important to understand that they can be triggered by many things. These including hormonal changes as discussed above. Other common triggers include emotional stress (anxiety, shock, depression) and physical strain (lack of sleep, tiredness, tension in the neck and shoulders, poor posture, strenuous exercise, low blood sugar).
Dietary decisions and lifestyle choices can also play a part in the onset of a migraine. Caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruit, cheese and certain additives are known to be triggers, as are smoky, stuffy or loud environments. For a more comprehensive guide to migraine triggers, click here.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
A migraine can be defined as a very intense, painful headache lasting for up to three days. However, there are some specific symptoms, which differentiate it from a normal headache. The most distinctive is that the pain occurs on one side of the head and is accompanied by a strong throbbing sensation.
Other symptoms that commonly occur with a migraine are:
- sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises
You may also experience what is known as "aura" before your migraine begins. This is where you experience a series of visual hallucinations such as flashing lights and patterns, along with feelings of confusion, dizziness and tingling. Some people experience aura without the accompanying headache.
In many cases, a migraine will develop in four stages. In the first stage, which will start a few days or hours before the headache begins, you might experience changes in mood, behaviour and appetite. After this may follow aura, as described above, and then the headache itself. The fourth stage marks the end of the migraine – a recovery period in which you may feel tired for a couple of days.
How is a migraine treated?
Unfortunately there is no cure-all treatment for migraines. However, there are a number of targeted painkillers that can help to ease the discomfort. Many people find that over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol are sufficient. However, others will require prescription medicine. Common prescription treatments are triptans (painkillers) and anti-sickness medication.
If you suffer from migraines and are seeking effective medication from a trusted online source, consider making an order from The Online Clinic. Find out more about our migraine medicines and how our secure prescription service works, by clicking here.