How much do you know about migraine?

Migraine is a common health condition that affects about one in five women and one in 15 men, says the NHS. But if you’ve never had one, you may not realise how badly a migraine attack can affect someone.

That’s why health charities such as the Migraine Trust are encouraging more people to talk about migraine.

For instance, which of the following key facts and figures about migraine* are you aware of?

  • Migraine is the third most common disease in the world after tooth decay and tension headache. Around the world, about one in seven people are thought to be affected.
  • More people have migraine than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.
  • Around 3,000 migraine attacks are thought to happen each day among every million of the population (in the UK, that’s the equivalent of more than 190,000 migraine attacks).
  • More than three quarters of those affected by migraine experience at least one attack every month, with more than half experiencing severe impairment during attacks.
  • Those who are affected by migraine spend an estimated 5.3 percent of their lives experiencing an attack.
  • According to the World Health Organization, migraine attacks are among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis.

Experts at the Migraine Trust suggest that migraine is a disorder that almost certainly has a genetic basis. Yet it remains undiagnosed and under treated in at least 50 percent of patients, with fewer than 50 percent of people with migraine seeking help from their doctors.

Headache symptoms

Described by the NHS as a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head, migraine can also cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Some people also have migraine aura, where they typically see flashing lights before the migraine begins (some also have the aura but no headache – called a ‘silent’ migraine).

If you experience occasional migraine attacks, your Careway pharmacist can recommend simple painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, both of which can be effective for migraine (find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder).

Sleeping or lying in a darkened room can also be useful during a migraine attack. But if you have frequent migraines on more than five days a month, it’s advisable to see your GP for preventative treatment.

Some people may find a migraine attack develops when they’re under a lot of stress or when they eat a certain type of food. Being tired can trigger a migraine too, and women who are affected may find they get a migraine attack during their period. If you’ve noticed a certain type of food tends to trigger a migraine, avoiding it may well help. According to the NHS, it may also be useful to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

Migraine Awareness Week runs from September 3 – 9, 2017.

(* Migraine Trust key facts and figures about migraine.)