The first week of September is Migraine Awareness week. This is a nationally coordinated week designed to increase awareness of the condition, provide more information and encourage people who may not know that they can seek help to find out more about their symptoms.
Migraines can be a real headache, but what actually are they?
Unfortunately the exact nature of how a migraine is caused has not yet been discovered, but it is believed to be a result of changes in the blood vessels and chemicals of the brain, the most common symptoms include:
– A severe, throbbing and prolonged headache which can last anywhere between 4 hours and 3 days – this is usually felt on one side of the head or the front, but can extend over the whole head and even to the face and neck
– The headache will often get worse with movement
– Once the headache has ended it is not uncommon to feel fatigued for up to a week after
– Increased sensitivity to light or sound
– Stomach upset
– Feeling either very cold or very hot
– Difficulty with concentration
This is by no means a complete list of the symptoms, but if you suffer from these it may be a sign that you have a migraine.
How common are migraines?
A recent study by the UK charity Migraine Action* found that 1 in 7 Brits regularly suffer from migraines.
How big an impact are Migraines having on the UK?
The same study also showed that migraines may be incredibly costly to the UK’s economy, with 90% of migraine sufferers having had to take time off work, while a quarter of sufferers admit to having had to take over 15 days (the equivalent of 3 working weeks) off work due to their migraines.
So what can we do about it?
There is no known cure for migraines, so the most usual method of treatment is through use of painkillers to manage the symptoms, but what about preventing a migraine before it even begins?
The study by Migraine Action revealed with some startling figures. Over 2/3rds of sufferers (67%) believe that eating certain foods can trigger migraines, with Migraine Action stating that “recent research has shown that when sufferers follow tailored diets to eliminate trigger foods, their symptoms significantly improve.”
The problem with this is that there is no set diet for people looking to prevent their symptoms. Often, an elimination diet to find trigger foods can be a long and difficult process and may not even give the true results as migraines could be due to a combination of foods, rather than a single food intolerance. However, a food intolerance test, which can give clearer and quicker results, seems to be ignored. More than 70% of migraine sufferers having not been tested for food intolerance, despite research indicating 45% of the UK suffer with some degree of food intolerance. Evidence from Migraine Action further suggests eliminating trigger foods can reduce migraine symptoms.
*Survey by Migraine Action on behalf of yorktest, 2014