Are you suffering from a migraine? Migraines are characterised by throbbing, excruciating pain that is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or visual disturbances. They come on like a bushfire, forcing you to retreat until the worst is over. Find out the causes and symptoms.

 

What is a migraine?

Doctors aren't sure what causes migraines, but they suspect an association with abnormal constriction and dilation of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. The problem tends to run in families.

There are many possible triggers, including sensitivities to foods or food additives, stress, hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, oral contraceptives, caffeine withdrawal, changes in the weather or season, bright lights, and certain smells. Migraines are also more common in women than in men. There is no single definitive cure for migraines, but several remedies you can try.

Initial symptoms

About 60 per cent of sufferers experience some symptoms in the hours or days before the headache occurs (this is called a ‘prodrome’). These symptoms may include the following.

  • Mood alterations
     
  • Sensitivity to light or smells
     
  • Fatigue
     
  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
     
  • Increased thirst.

During a migraine

A migraine may announce itself with an aura affecting sight. Scientists aren't sure why; it could be that an electrical or chemical wave moves across the visual parts of the brain, causing hallucinatory disturbances such as squiggly lines or a small blind spot that gradually gets larger. Other common symptoms include the following.

  • Pain on one or both sides of your head which lasts, untreated, for hours, even days
     
  • Nausea and vomiting
     
  • Lack of appetite
     
  • Sensitivity to light and sound.

Many patients also experience symptoms after the headache has passed. These may range from fatigue and irritability to euphoria. If you have symptoms of migraine, speak to your doctor who will be able to rule out other potential causes, and try some of these remedies.

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