A migraine headache is a painfully disabling and recurring condition that affects a large number of New Zealanders.
What is it?
Migraine symptoms are thought to be caused by an irritation of the nerves in the brain, particularly those involved with the senses in the head and face area.
Very painful and disabling headaches on one or both sides of the head result. Extreme sensitivity to light and sound and feeling nauseous with vomiting often accompany the headaches.
The word migraine came originally from the Greek word hemicrania (half the head) and the old English term ‘megrim’. There are many types of migraine, which means they can be tricky to diagnose, particularly in children.
Who does it affect?
National health information in the US estimates 18% of 18-44 year olds (double the number of women to men) suffer from migraines and the number of sufferers is increasing dramatically.
The quoted rates for New Zealand are slightly less. Migraines can begin in children as young as two, adolescents or young adults. There is evidence of a genetic link.
What are the triggers?
There are various factors thought to precipitate or trigger migraines. They can be environmental or food related.
Treating a migraine
Medications (Triptans) are the most effective acute treatment. Seek advice from your doctor as to which are suitable for you and keep them handy at all times.
Some people find lying down and relaxing in a dark room the best method of coping. A cold flannel on the face or neck often provides a little relief. For others, walking outdoors in the fresh air can be helpful.
New Zealand Migraine Sufferers Support Group, 24-hour telephone support – tel 09 446 6229
The Migraine Trust
Thanks to Annette Hallam, National Director of New Zealand Migraine Sufferers Support Group for her advice and assistance in reviewing the contents of this article.