One in seven people has migraine

Each year in September, The Migraine Trust holds Migraine Awareness Week to make more people aware of the condition.

For instance, you may not realise that one in seven people have migraine. Worldwide, it’s the third most common disease after dental decay and tension headache. So while other conditions may be talked about more often, more people have migraine than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.

According to The Migraine Trust, it’s thought that there are more than 190,000 migraine attacks every day in the UK. These can cause symptoms such as a throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, low energy and sensitivity to light and noise.

More than three quarters of people who have migraine experience at least one attack a month, with more than half being severely impaired while having an attack.

Women suffer more

It’s also much more common in women (three times as many women have migraine than men), and often starts during puberty (though those who are most affected are aged between 35 and 45).

It has an effect on the economy too, with absenteeism from migraine estimated to cost £2.25 billion per year in the UK (it also costs the NHS £150 million a year in GP visits and prescription drug costs).

How is it treated?

The NHS recommends over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for many people who have migraine. If possible, take them at the first signs of a migraine attack to allow them to start working before your symptoms get stronger. You could also try taking soluble painkillers as your body absorbs them faster than non-soluble tablets.

If over-the-counter painkillers don’t help, your GP may prescribe medicines called triptans. These work by making the blood vessels around the brain narrower, as experts believe the widening of blood vessels plays a part in migraine.

You may also need another prescription medicine called an anti-emetic, which is usually used to prevent nausea (in some people these can successfully treat a migraine even when there is no sickness or vomiting).

Other medicines can help prevent – rather than treat – an attack. If you have regular migraines, your GP can tell you more about them.

Ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend an over-the-counter medicines for migraine, as some may be more suitable for you than others. Your pharmacist can also refer you to your GP if you need prescription medication. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.