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Migraine - Rightangled

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, throbbing headaches often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. These episodes, known as migraine attacks, can be debilitating and significantly impact an individual's daily life. While the exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, various factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, and certain triggers are believed to contribute to their onset.

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The exact cause of migraines remains a subject of ongoing research. However, several factors are thought to play a role in their development:

- Genetics: Migraines often run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the condition.

- Neurological Changes: Changes in brain activity and blood flow, particularly involving the trigeminal nerve, are believed to contribute to migraine symptoms.

- Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormonal changes, particularly in estrogen levels, can trigger migraines, which is why many women experience migraines during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause.

- Triggers: Certain environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors can trigger migraine attacks in susceptible individuals. Common triggers include stress, lack of sleep, certain foods (e.g., aged cheeses, processed meats, artificial sweeteners), caffeine, alcohol, and changes in weather.


Diagnosing migraines involves a thorough assessment of symptoms and medical history. A healthcare professional, often a neurologist or headache specialist, will evaluate the frequency, duration, and characteristics of headache episodes. It is essential to differentiate migraines from other types of headaches, such as tension headaches or cluster headaches.
A detailed medical history, including a family history of migraines, is crucial in the diagnostic process. Imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, may be ordered to rule out other underlying causes for the headaches.


Managing migraines typically involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, acute treatments for relieving symptoms during an attack, and preventive measures to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes:
Lifestyle Modifications:
Identifying and avoiding triggers whenever possible.

Establishing a regular sleep routine and managing stress through relaxation techniques.
Maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated.

- Acute Treatments:
Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin may help alleviate mild migraine symptoms.

- Triptans: Prescription medications that target serotonin receptors, effectively reducing pain and other migraine symptoms.

- Analgesics:

Prescription-strength pain relievers that can provide relief during moderate to severe migraine attacks.
Anti-nausea medications: These can help manage nausea and vomiting that often accompany migraines.

- Preventive Measures:

Prescription medications: Certain drugs originally developed for other purposes, such as beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, and certain antidepressants, have been found to help prevent migraine episodes.

Botox injections: In some cases, Botox injections administered by a healthcare professional can help reduce the frequency of migraines.

CGRP Inhibitors:
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors are a relatively new class of medications specifically designed to prevent migraines. These drugs work by targeting CGRP, a protein associated with migraine attacks.


While complete prevention may not always be possible, there are steps individuals can take to reduce the risk of migraine episodes:

- Identify and Avoid Triggers: Keeping a migraine diary to track potential triggers and adjust daily routines accordingly.

- Manage Stress: Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help manage stress, a common trigger for migraines.

- Sleep Hygiene: Establishing regular sleep patterns and ensuring sufficient sleep duration can help prevent migraines triggered by sleep disturbances.

- Stay Hydrated: Maintaining adequate hydration levels by drinking enough water throughout the day is essential.

- Balanced Diet: Consuming a well-balanced diet and avoiding known trigger foods can contribute to migraine prevention.

In conclusion, migraines are a neurological disorder characterized by severe headaches often accompanied by other debilitating symptoms. While the exact cause is not fully understood, genetics, hormonal changes, and triggers are believed to contribute to their onset. Proper diagnosis, lifestyle modifications, acute treatments, and preventive measures are key to managing migraines effectively. If you suspect you are experiencing migraines, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations.

Further info

Read more about Migraine on NHS website, following the link below:

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Can children experience migraines, and how are they different from adult migraines?

Yes, children can experience migraines, although their symptoms may differ from those in adults. Children may have shorter migraine attacks, often lasting an hour or less, and their headaches may be bilateral (on both sides of the head) rather than unilateral. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound are also common in pediatric migraines. If you suspect your child is experiencing migraines, consult a pediatrician for proper evaluation and management.

Are there any complementary or alternative therapies that can help with migraine management?

Some individuals find relief from migraines through complementary therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While these approaches may not work for everyone, they can be considered as part of a comprehensive migraine management plan. It's important to discuss any complementary or alternative therapies with your healthcare provider before incorporating them into your treatment regimen.

What is an aura, and how does it relate to migraines?

An aura is a set of neurological symptoms that some individuals experience before the onset of a migraine attack. Auras typically involve visual disturbances, such as seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots. However, auras can also manifest as sensory disturbances (tingling or numbness) or speech difficulties. Not all migraine sufferers experience auras, and they can occur with or without the accompanying headache phase.

Can hormonal changes in women affect migraines, and what can be done to manage them?

Hormonal fluctuations, particularly those related to the menstrual cycle, can trigger migraines in some women. These menstrual migraines often occur a few days before, during, or after menstruation. Women may also experience migraines during pregnancy or menopause due to hormonal shifts. Managing hormonal migraines may involve lifestyle adjustments, preventive medications, or hormonal therapies under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Medically reviewed & approved

This page was medically reviewed by Dr Sohaib Imtiaz (clinical lead) |


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