What is a migraine?
Migraines are a common problem, affecting 15 % of the adult population in the UK. They affect women more than men and 90 % of people have their first migraine before the age of 40.
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
Migraines can affect different people in different ways. Normally (but not always) it includes a severe throbbing headache felt at the front or on one side of the head, and is usually accompanied by feeling or being sick, and/or a sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds. Sufferers often say they have to lie down in a darkened, quiet room and wait for it to pass - it will usually last anywhere up to 72 hours.
In some migraine sufferers, the headache is preceded by changes in mood, energy levels, behaviour and appetite for several hours before the attack. This can be followed by an "aura" stage, which includes seeing flashing lights, blind spots, inability to focus and seeing things as though through broken glass. It can be quite frightening if you are not used to it, and can last for up to an hour before a headache starts. Most migraines fade away or disappear after being sick or with sleep and, in many cases, the sufferer will feel weak and exhausted afterwards.
What causes a migraine?
Some people suffer migraine attacks rarely and can go for years without an attack, whilst others can have several attacks a week. For many, migraines are triggered by certain things. Common triggers include stress or anxiety, shock, tiredness or poor sleep patterns associated with shift work, neck or shoulder tension and poor posture. For some people, certain foods can trigger migraines too – chocolate, citrus fruits, alcohol, cheese, the food additive tyramine and caffeine are common culprits. Bright or flashing lights, strong smells, loud noises or very cold temperatures may trigger migraines. Some medicines can cause migraines, such as some sleeping tablets, hormone replacement therapy and the contraceptive pill. Migraine sufferers are often encouraged to keep a diary of foods to try and identify any triggers so that they can be avoided.
What migraine treatments are available?
Whilst migraines can seriously affect your quality of life, most sufferers find a way of preventing them by identifying and avoiding triggers. There are effective treatments available that can prevent and treat the symptoms of migraine.
Many people find that non-prescription medicines available from a pharmacy can be very helpful – including painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, with or without codeine. Codeine can be helpful, but it can also make people feel more nauseous. Medicines to help with the feeling of sickness such as Avomine, Buccastem M and Kwells are also helpful. Migraitan tablets are also available without a prescription and are specifically designed to lessen the symptoms of a migraine. They reduce the swelling of blood vessels to the brain, which is associated with a migraine, and can get to work within 30 minutes of you taking one. All medicines should be taken at the first signs of a migraine. As a migraine progresses, it becomes harder for medicines to get into the blood stream, and they can be lost altogether in bouts of sickness. Soluble painkillers (which are dissolved in water before being taken) will get to work faster than normal tablets and so are recommended for a migraine.
If non-prescription treatments do not work for you, there are a number of prescription-only medicines that can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of migraines. These treatments are available through a convenient and confidential consultation with the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor. A class of medicines called 5HT1 receptor agonists are used to treat migraines in patients who have not responded to non-prescription medicines. These are not suitable for everyone, so it’s important that a doctor decides if this is the right treatment for you. The 5HT1 agonists are available from the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service and include: Almogran (almotriptan) tablets,Imigran nasal spray, Maxalt melt wafers (rizatriptan), Migard (frovatriptan) tablets and sumatriptan. Click on each medicine to find out more about them.
Imigran nasal spray and Maxalt melt wafers can be beneficial to some migraine sufferers as they are not taken by being swallowed, which is difficult to do when you feel nauseous or are being sick, and they get to work more quickly. Migard is lasts longer, so there may be less incidence of a rebound migraine.
The doctor can also prescribe Arlevert and Prochlorperazine buccal tablets to help combat the sickness of migraine, and co-codamol effervescent tablets to relieve the headaches. For frequent sufferers, the doctor can prescribe propranolol to prevent migraines. It's taken each day, even if you don't have a migraine at the time, in order to make it less likely that you will experience a migraine in the future.