MIGRAINES are a painful reality for one in seven people - and this week medical experts are urging people to educate themselves about the debilitating condition.
Migraine Awareness Week was launched yesterday and has been welcomed by people like Elizabeth Cowan (37) from Bishopbriggs.
The paralegal started suffering migraines around five years ago and says many people just dismiss them as headaches without realising that the symptoms are far more wide-ranging.
She told the Herald: “It’s horrible. When I had my first one I thought there was something dreadfully wrong with me. It feels like your head is in a vice, with a tremendous amount of pain and pressure being brought to bear on your skull.
“My most recent migraines have been worse than usual – I’ve had loss of vision, extreme nausea and vomiting. My medication hasn’t been able to touch it, and I’ve had to take time off work, which isn’t ideal.
“Every time I get a headache, I worry that it’ll turn into a migraine which probably makes it worse.
“Sometimes you get the feeling that certain people, including employers, think you’re making a fuss about nothing. Hopefully that’s one the of the things Migraine Awareness Week might be able to combat.”
Dr Alok Tyagi, a consultant neurologist at Ross Hall Hospital, said it was important to understand the difference between a migraine and a normal headache.
He said: “Patients with migraine are usually disabled by their symptoms, and have to go to bed and have the day off work. In contrast patients with tension-type headaches are usually able to carry out their usual activities as normal.
“Symptoms include throbbing, one-sided head pain with nausea and vomiting, light and sound sensitivity which gets worse with physical activity is typical of a migraine. Some people with migraines have focal neurological symptoms with their migraine headaches. These may affect the vision or may cause sensory symptoms.”
Many people don’t realise that there are actually two types of migraine - the common migraine and the classical migraine.
The classical variety has even more wide-ranging symptoms including loss of vision, difficulty with speech, vertigo and a weakness on one side of the body.
Both types affect women more than men, with skipping meals and lack of sleep the two factors most likely to trigger an attack.
There are a number of ways to treat migraines, including beta blockers, antidepressants and botox, but most patients can manage their condition with a number of simpler measures.
Dr Tyagi explained: “Lifestyle measures with regular eating times, being adequately hydrated and getting a good nights sleep are all very important.
“Simple analgesics such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen should be tried first for the treatment of a migraine attack.”
For more information about Migraine Awareness Week go to www.migraine.org.uk
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