Migraine

A migraine is usually a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. Many people also have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

Migraine is a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men. They usually begin in early adulthood.

migraine with aura – where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights

migraine without aura – the most common type, where the migraine occurs without the specific warning signs

migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache doesn't develop

Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week. Other people only have a migraine occasionally. It's possible for years to pass between migraine attacks.

Pain relievers are typically the first drugs recommended by doctors for migraine and headaches. Many of these medications are over-the-counter, or available without a doctor's prescription, while other headache drugs require a prescription. When taking these headache drugs, avoid products that contain caffeine. Any medication containing barbiturates or narcotics should be used sparingly.

When to seek medical advice

You should see your GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms.

Simple painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be effective for migraine. However, be careful not to take too many painkillers as this could make it harder to treat headaches over time.

You should also make an appointment to see your GP if you have frequent migraines (on more than five days a month), even if they can be controlled with medication, as you may benefit from preventative treatment.

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