What is it?
Migraine is particularly severe headache, usually on one side of the head.
Symptoms: Some or all of the following symptoms may occur: Nausea or vomiting and disturbance of vision, a sensation of flashing lights, shimmering zig-zag lines or strange odours. An area of lost vision, a feeling of numbness in the face, arms or legs, pins and needles anywhere in the body, loss of speech.
Causes: Migraine headaches tend to run in families.
Trigger factors include: Certain foods, especially coffee, chocolate, cheese, alcohol, citrus fruit, food preservatives and MSG (used in Chinese food and soya sauce. Emotional stress e.g. exercise or sudden exertion, loud noise, bright or flashing lights, some hormone treatments, in particular the contraceptive pill.
Possible complications: Sometimes impairment of daily activities, such as work or hobbies.
Treatment in the home: As soon as you notice the warning signs of an attack, take a mild painkiller in the recommended dose. This may prevent a full-blown migraine attack. Lie down in a darkened room and rest or sleep.
When to consult a doctor: If you suffer from severe recurrent headaches.
What the doctor may do: Ask you to describe the symptoms to determine whether migraine is the cause. If you are diagnosed as suffering from migraine, he will most probably prescribe an acute attack-aborting medication. It is important to take medication as soon as possible after an attack begins. If you suffer from two or more attacks per month. He may prescribe a preventative medicine to be taken daily for a period of time. If you are taking the oral contraceptive pill, he may change the type of pill or advise an alternative method of birth control.