Monday 2 September 2019

Migraine Awareness Week 2019

It's currently Migraine Awareness Week in the UK. Today 190,000 people in the U will have had a migraine - myself included.

Migraines are something I battle with a lot! I have Chronic Daily Headaches/Chronic Migraines as well as Migraines with an Aura and the rarer Hemiplegic Migraines.

At the moment I've had an ongoing migraine for almost two weeks now and it's no fun at all. 
For me migraines are just part of my life and I have learnt to live with them. Somedays I can about function near enough normally whilst having a migraine which can be quite deceptive, like Have a migraine now but I'm able to blog now (just in a dimmed room with a dimmed screen and tinted lenses). Other days I feel incredibly ill and like my head is being crushed and I can barely talk or function. 
They are not something I would wish upon anyone. 
With bad migraine days even simple tasks can be painful and difficult. 

When I have a migraine I have to take lots of different medications to try to relieve my migraine: Sumatriptan (triptans are migraine prevention medications), pain relief medications and antiemetic (anti sickness) medication. Unfortunately theses things don't completely stop or cure my migraines, they just give me a little relief.

One day I hope a cure for migraines can be found, but so far there is only prevention and management of migraines. So for the meantime people like me must just try our best to cope as best we can.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is much more than 'just a bad headache'. They are a complex neurological condition which come with a wide variety of symptoms. There are also many different types of migraines and there's no such thing as a 'typical migraine', so what a person experiences or is a migraine trigger will be completely different for another person, even if they are experiencing the same type of migraine - confusing or what?!

The cause of migraines are unknown but it is believed that migraines have an underlying genetic factor and women are more affected than men.

In the UK migraines affect around 9 million people, they affect some people more often than others. Some people may just have a few migraines in their lifetime, but other people like myself it's not uncommon to have several migraine attacks a week.

When a person is experiencing a migraine it is referred to as a 'Migraine Attack'. Migraines can last from anything from a few hours to a few days.
The term 'Chronic Migraines refers to when a person has 15 or more migraine attacks a month.

Migraine Symptoms and Stages

These vary depending on the type of migraine but some common migraine symptoms include:

A migraine can present as a painful headache alongside other symptoms including
  • Pain in the head
  • Visual disturbances
  • Sensitivity to sound, light and smalls
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Fatigue/lethargy 
It's had to predict a lot of the time when a migraine will hit. However migraines follow a sort-of set of stages:

1. Prodrome or pre-warning stage.

In around 60% of people with migraines they will have a pre-warning stage. This stage is difficult to work out as to whether you're going to have a migraine or if your just feeling unwell. Symptoms may include mood swings, fatigue, muscle stiffness and hypersensitivity. 
For me I get quite confused, irritable and difficulty concentrating, I get spinal/neck pain (that spot where your spine meets your head like I have now), throbbing temples, hypersensitivity and visual disturbances.

2. Aura

This stage doesn't happen in people who have Migraines without and Aura.

This stage includes a wide variety of neurological symptoms. This stage usually lasts from 5 minutes to an hour. They usual happen before the migraine but for some the storms can last during the migraine too.
For me especially the visual changes an speech problems last longer for me.

It is caused by changes the cortex are of the brain. 

Some people may experience visual disturbances.
Other visual disturbances may include seeing dark or coloured spots, stars or zig-zag lines. There may also be numbness or pins-and-needles, muscle weakness, dizziness. A person's speech and hearing can also be affected. Memory changes can also happen, such as feeing dread, confused.

For it's like I'm seeing the Northern Lights in front of me, I can slur, forget or stumble on words and sounds gets muffled or I get a dull ringing in my ears. I also get a feeling of dread and confused.

I also have a rare type of migraine called Hemiplegic Migraines where I get numbness/weakness, pins-and-needles and speech loss and down one side of my body (symptoms very similar to a stroke) but thankfully these systems ease of after a while.

3. The headache or 'main attack'

This part is 'the headache' which can involve different types of head pain typically throbbing and made worse my moving your head. The pain can also feel like a pressure in your head like a crushing sensation.
Pain can be from moderate to severe to unbearable (the the point you which you didn't have a head!)
The pain is usually on one side of the head, button always.
The pain builds up gradually and is made worse by physical activity. So this is the time to stop, lay down and rest.

As well as the pain other syomtoms may include hypersensitivity, fatigue, dizziness/diorientation and mood changes.

In my aura stage I also get nauseous but when I have the headache the nausea worsens sometimes to the post I'm actually vomiting, probably due to the pain. My hypersensitivity can also worsen.

This stage can last from a few hours to several day, sometime longer for some people.


Most migraines slowly fade away, bu in some cases they may suddenly stop after a person is sick or cries a lot. Sleep may help a lot of people and can help the person to overcome their migraine.

4. Postdrome or recovery

This is a big like a 'migraine hangover' once to he ache has settled which can make hours or days to overcome. Symptoms can be similar to the first prodrome stage.

Types of migraines

  • Migraine without an aura - this is the most common type of migraine affecting around 70-90% of migraine suffers
  • Migraine with an aura - a common type of migraine with additional neurological symptoms 
  • Chronic migraines - this is the name given the you have 15 or more migraines a month and recently defined sub-type of Chronic Daily Headache This affects less than 1% of people so yay me, not!
  • Menstrual migraines
  • Hemiplegic migraines a rare type of migraine (year me again!) which have symptoms that resemble a stroke, but the symptoms are temporary
  • Migraine with brainstem aura, another rare type of migraine, formally known as basilar-type migraine

References and Links