For the one in seven Aussies who suf­fer from migraines, the pain can be crip­pling. Our ex­perts dis­cuss com­mon causes — and the lat­est treat­ments to ease symp­toms.

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Ex­perts ex­am­ine the causes of the pain, and new ways to ease symp­toms

For any­one who can shift a headache with a cou­ple of parac­eta­mols, it may be hard to un­der­stand that a mi­graine can put you out of ac­tion for hours, if not days.

Ever won­dered how bad a mi­graine can be? “Dur­ing a se­vere at­tack, some peo­ple feel they would rather be dead, in con­trast to peo­ple who have had a heart at­tack and worry they may die,” says neu­rol­o­gist Dr Jon Sim­cock.

Watch some­one grap­pling with a mi­graine, and it’s easy to un­der­stand why World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­perts have called mi­graine the third most dis­abling hu­man med­i­cal con­di­tion.

What is a mi­graine?

Migraines af­fect about one in seven peo­ple and may be ex­pe­ri­enced reg­u­larly — on av­er­age, around 13 times a year. For around 30 per cent of peo­ple who get them, migraines are pre­ceded by an aura — that is, loss of vi­sion and flash­ing lights. Migraines are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by nau­sea and vom­it­ing, and they can also be as­so­ci­ated with hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity, par­tic­u­larly to light and noise, and some­times even to strong smells.

A mi­graine can last for hours or days. The sever­ity and fre­quency of migraines can be highly vari­able be­tween peo­ple, and over one per­son’s life­time. It hap­pens as a re­sult of ab­nor­mal brain ac­tiv­ity af­fect­ing nerve sig­nals. Pain nerves switch on when noth­ing is wrong, forc­ing the body to ex­pe­ri­ence and cope with a se­ries of other changes.

Pos­si­ble trig­gers

Learn­ing to recog­nise your trig­gers for a mi­graine can give you some abil­ity to help deal with an at­tack, and to avoid or limit the im­pact migraines have on your life.

We don’t yet know the un­der­ly­ing causes, but some com­mon fac­tors may bring on a mi­graine.

The six usual sus­pects are:

SPE­CIFIC FOODS OR DRINKS Com­mon trig­gers in­clude choco­late, caf­feinated or al­co­holic drinks, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, and cheese.

DEHYDRATION This com­mon trig­ger is eas­i­est to avoid by en­sur­ing you drink eight glasses of wa­ter, spac­ing them out through­out the day.

CHANGE TO ROU­TINE Skip­ping meals, sleep­ing in at the week­end or do­ing an all-nighter at work are all po­ten­tial trig­gers.

SLEEP Both too much and too lit­tle sleep are linked to a mi­graine at­tack.

ANX­I­ETY OR STRESS Some suf­fer­ers say that any kind of ten­sion or shock leads to an at­tack. Oth­ers re­port that a mi­graine strikes once stress is re­duced — at week­ends or on hol­i­day. Learn­ing how to pace your­self may help pre­vent migraines.

HORMONAL CHANGES For women, migraines may im­prove dur­ing the later teens and 20s, only to worsen af­ter hav­ing chil­dren, then im­prove again af­ter menopause. For some women, migraines are pre­dictable at cer­tain times in their monthly cy­cle.

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