Migraine is a condition of recurring headaches that may be linked with other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and eyesight changes. Non-specialist doctors get an average of four hours of education about all headache disorders during medical school. Neurologists get an average of 10.
Only 25-30% of Migraineurs experience the aura (visual disturbance) phase of a Migraine attack. Each experience of Migraine is unique to each individual, not all conditions or triggers apply to everyone.
Key facts and figures about Migraine
Migraine is amongst the three most prevalent health conditions worldwide, along with anaemia and hearing loss (The global burden of disease: 2004 update, World Health Organization) There are NO medications on the market that were originally developed for Migraine prevention. Migraine without aura is the most common form of Migraine.
Among adults of all ages, migraine is one of the top 20 causes of disability expressed as years of healthy life lost to disability (The World Health Report 2001: Mental Health: New understanding new hope)
Severe migraine attacks are classified by the World Health Organisation as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis (Shapiro & Goadsby, Cephalalgia, September 2007)
Migraine is the least publicly funded of all neurological illnesses relative to its economic impact (Shapiro & Goadsby, Cephalalgia, September 2007)
In the UK, there are an estimated 190,000 migraine attacks every day (Steiner et al, Cephalalgia, 2003)
An estimated 25 million days are lost from work or school every year because of migraine (Steiner et al, Cephalalgia, 2003)
Just over a third (34.3%) of migraine sufferers face difficulties or discrimination at work because of their condition (The Migraine Trust, 2004)
Over half (54%) of migraineurs experience one or more attacks per month, and 13% claim one or more attacks per week (Steiner et al, Cephalalgia, 2003)
Women are more likely to have migraine attacks than men ? 18% of women and 8% of men (Steiner et al, Cephalalgia, 2003)
Children can get migraine attacks too. Attacks can start at any age, but they usually start in children who are in their early to mid teens (Goadsby et al, New England Journal of Medicine, 2002)
A survey of neurologists found that up to one-third of all patients consulted because of headache more than for any other complaint (WHO, Factsheet 277, March 2004)
Depression is three times more common in people with migraine or severe headaches than in healthy individuals (WHO, Factsheet 277, March 2004) Suicide attempts are three times more likely among people with Migraine with aura compared to people without Migraine, regardless of whether or not they also have major depression.
Migraine remains undiagnosed and under treated in at least 50% of patients, and less than 50% of migraine patients consult a physician (Pavone, Banfi, Vaiani & Panconesi, Cephalalgia, September 2007)
As you can see from all of the above Migraine is a complex and debilitating problem that touches all ages and a very broad cross section of society.
Many people who complain of a sinus headache or infection are in fact experiencing Migraine. To avoid your migraine triggers While the usual response to migraine is medication the actual key is self management. Migraine requires triggers, the triggers can be nutritional, mental, emotional or hormonal. For people susceptible to migraine triggers the best way to prevent a headache is to avoid the triggers to begin with. Keep a food, mood and Migraine diary, Migraine is a very individual condition while some people are affected by chocolate others are not. Some triggers are accumulative, combinations of foods, groups of foods eaten two, three or four days running my cause an attack. Watch what you eat and drink. If you get a headache, write down any food or drink you had before getting it. If you see a pattern over time, eliminate that item!
Eat regularly. Skipping meals can trigger Migraines in some people Curb the caffeine. Excess caffeine (in any food or drink) can cause Migraines.
Be careful: cutting back abruptly may also cause Migraines
Be careful with exercise. Although doctors advise getting regular exercise to stay healthy, exercise can trigger headaches.
Get regular sleep. Changes in your normal sleep habits can cause Migraines. Being overly tired can also trigger Migraines
Learn to cope with stress. Emotional upsets and stressful events are common Migraine triggers. Anxiety, worry, fatigue and excitement can intensify a migraine’s severity.
Learn to cope with stress better–through counselling and relaxation technique training.
The Common Stressors
Changes in normal sleep pattern
Specific foods and beverages
Excess caffeine intake or withdrawal
Skipping meals; fasting
Changing weather conditions
Bright and flickering lights
Natural chemicals in foods, food additives and beverages can also trigger Migraines
These include: Tyramine, a substance found naturally in aged cheeses, and also found in red wine, alcoholic drinks and some processed meats.
Food additives/preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites found in ham, sausage and other processed or cured meats, and in salads in salad bars.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Chinese food and many packaged foods.
Alcohol – specifically the impurities in alcohol or by-products your body produces as it metabolises alcohol. Red wine, beer, whisky, champagne (cheaper quality alcohol seems to affect more people).
Aged cheeses: Stilton, blue cheese, mozzarella, feta, Cheddar, parmesan
Caffeine: coffee, chocolate, tea, colas and fizzy drinks
Pepperoni, pizza, sandwich meats, hot dogs, spam, processed meats etc.
Bread and other baked goods
Smoked or dried fish
Pizza, peanuts, chicken livers and other specific foods The appropriate diet and range of supplements can often help, but the key is always awareness of your condition and self management.
I have had particular success using ARK1 from Arkworld with client management of migraine. Arkworld are a small nutrition company with some of the most amazing products in the field of nutrition today.