Understanding Migraines: More than a Headache

Headaches can be a nuisance, but migraines are a different story. This condition is characterised by severe, recurring pain that lasts from 4 to 72-hours and affects daily activities. Migraines usually occur on one side of the head and are accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light and noise.

Migraines are linked to a neurological disorder that heightens a person's sensitivity to stimuli. Triggers such as food, smells, stress and fatigue can provoke an attack that wouldn't affect others. Removing food triggers such as cheese, chocolate, wine, citrus, bananas and caffeine can be beneficial. Women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men, which may be attributed to fluctuating levels of oestrogen during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.

Treatment for migraines include pain killers (Paracetamol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen) and Triptan medicines (Sumatriptan, Rizatriptan). Derived from tryptophan, Triptans attach to serotonin receptors to cause the blood vessels to narrow, reversing the effect of the migraine. Both can be purchased from your Pharmacist with a consultation, if symptoms are stable and well established. They need to be taken within 1-hour of the migraine starting, but it is important to limit to less than 10 doses per month. Exceeding this may lead to medicine overuse headaches. This can also occur with 10+ doses of opiates, 15+ doses of Paracetamol and NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Naproxen) per month.

A nutritious diet and regular fluid intake is an ideal foundation for preventing migraines. Keep a diary of stress levels, life events, food, drinks and symptoms to look for patterns. Explore any unidentified food intolerances, maintain regular sleep patterns and exercise regularly. Manage stress with meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques. Preventative medications are available from your Doctor or supplement with Magnesium (400-650mg daily), vitamin B2 (200mg twice daily) or CoEnzyme Q10 (150-300mg daily) to reduce the frequency of attacks. Try them one at a time after asking your Pharmacist which will be best for you.



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