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The Impact of Alcohol on Migraines

Posted Tuesday 01 October 2019 09:13 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Migraines are extremely intense headaches which can also result in vision problems, dizziness and nausea. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, though they are thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity.[1]

But one theory behind migraines is that they can be caused by excessive drinking. We’re going to take a closer look at this theory.

Can alcohol cause migraines?

Although there is not enough evidence to conclusively state that drinking alcohol causes migraines, there is reason enough to find a link between the two.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you expel more fluid when you take it in, often referred to as ‘breaking the seal’. Losing fluid from your body can lead to dehydration, which is another known migraine trigger. What’s more, drinking alcohol relaxes the blood vessels, which causes increased blood flow to the brain and can make migraines more likely to occur.[2]

One 2014 study studied two groups — migraine sufferers and non-sufferers — after a night of drinking. They found that participants who suffered from migraines experienced a higher tendency of migraine-like symptoms, but no difference in other hangover symptoms compared to non-sufferers.[3]

What’s more, population-based studies in various countries such as Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the US have consistently found that fewer migraine sufferers consume alcohol than those without headaches. This is most likely explained as migraine sufferers giving up alcohol because it is triggering headaches.[4]

Alcohol as a migraine trigger

Of all alcoholic drinks, red wine is often cited as the biggest migraine trigger. Studies have shown that the odds of a person naming red wine as a migraine trigger are over three times greater than the odds of naming beer.[5]

Research does show that red wine could cause issues for people with certain sensitivities. For example, red wine contains 20-200 times the amount of histamine as white wine. Migraines can be a symptom of histamine intolerance, so people with this allergy may experience migraines as a result of drinking.

Red wine can also cause a rise in the level of serotonin in the blood, which has been linked to migraine headaches.[6]

Alcohol is also a well-known trigger of cluster headaches — a similar phenomenon to migraines characterised by pain on one side of the head. Those with a cluster headache are advised to avoid drinking alcohol until the episode has completely passed.[7]

How to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines

Outside of alcohol, there are many other factors which have been known to trigger migraines in sufferers. These can be emotional, physical, dietary or environmental, and include:

Stress and anxiety

Dehydration

Caffeine

Bright lights

Smoking

Skipping meals

Tension

Lack of sleep[8]

Addressing these problem areas can help to alleviate the intensity and frequency of your migraines. Staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, eating regular healthy meals and getting enough fresh air and natural light are just some of the ways people manage their migraine symptoms.[9]

Migraine medication like Sumatriptan can also be useful in reducing migraine symptoms. In fact, clinical studies showed that migraine intensity dropped by 79% in participants given 8mg of Sumatriptan, compared to just 25% in those given the placebo drug.[10]

Safe and effective migraine treatment is available from Express Pharmacy. Speak to one of our expert pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our discreet Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. Migraine. 2019

[2] Panconesi, A. MD. Alcohol and migraine: trigger factor, consumption mechanisms. A review. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2008

[3] Zlotnik, Y. et al. Alcohol consumption and hangover patterns among migraine sufferers. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice. 2014.

[4] Panconesi, A. MD. Alcohol and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation. 2016

[5] Mathew, PG. MD, FAAN, FAHS. Alcohol and headaches. Harvard Health Publishing. 2018.

[6] Panconesi. 2008

[7] The Migraine Trust. Cluster Headache. 2019

[8] NHS UK. Migraine Causes. 2019.

[9] The Migraine Trust. Coping and managing. 2019

[10] The Subcutaneous Sumatriptan International Study Group. Treatment of Migraine Attacks with Sumatriptan. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1991.


New Research Suggests Magnets Could Be Used to Treat Migraines

Posted Friday 15 February 2019 22:31 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

magnets for migraines

In the UK, migraines are an extremely common complaint. In fact, it is estimated that there are 190,000 migraine attacks every day in England alone, and UK-wide there are 6 million suffering with migraines. Prevalence of migraines has been reported at 5-25% of women and 2-10% of men, while it’s estimated that as many as 1 in 1,000 people live with chronic migraines.[1]

Now, however, recent research suggests that pocket-sized magnets could be used to provide fast relief from migraine symptoms. Magnets have been used in the treatment of migraines for decades, but these smaller sized versions could make the treatment more accessible.

Dr Richard Lipton, vice chair of the department of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and director of the Montefiore Headache Centre explained the effectiveness of migraines when speaking to the New York Post, saying:

“Magnets stimulate the brain. Forms of magnet therapy have been used as both diagnostic and therapeutic tools for a very long time. The challenge was building a lightweight, portable device. But now we’ve accomplished that.”[2]

The research

The trail of this new magnet treatment was completed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It involved the use of treatment known as single pulse Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (sTMS), which has previously only been available in hospitals, and transferring it into a portable device.

The subject of the research was Barrington Simner, 72, from Bromley in south-east London, who suffered from migraines for more than 20 years.

Simner received sTMS in the form of a portable device placed on the back of the head for a few seconds, pressing a button to deliver a painful magnetic pulse into the brain. This works by stimulating cells in the outer surface of the brain, reducing the severity and frequency of migraines. It can be used up to eight times a day.

Describing his feelings towards the treatment, Simner commented:

“I started getting migraines when I turned 50 and over time they got progressively worse. At one point I was getting a migraine twice a week. They were completely debilitating […] I tried lots of different powerful painkillers, but the side-effects made me drowsy. sTMS is the only treatment that has worked for me.

“I’ve massively reduced the amount of painkillers I take. I am now able to volunteer, spend time gardening and enjoy life. I’m really thankful to the team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for the care I’ve received. The treatment has completely changed my life.”[3]

Currently, Guy’s and St Thomas’ headache centre is the only NHS centre in the UK to offer this treatment.

Migraines are complex problems with many associated causes and symptoms

Migraines are the third most common disease in the world, with an estimated global impact of 14.7%, which works out at around one in seven people.[4] Despite this, the true cause of migraines has not yet been determined, and research into migraines is the least publicly funded of all neurological illnesses relative to its economic impact.[5]

With this in mind, it’s important to look at the research from Guy’s and St Thomas’ with a critical eye. While the results of the research into portable sTMS is promising, the experience of having a migraine is different for every sufferer, as is the treatment which works best. For many, taking steps to prevent triggers is the best solution.

For some people, lifestyle changes such as improving diet, drinking plenty of fluids, engaging in exercise and taking time away from electronic devices can all positively impact migraine symptoms. For others, effective medication is the only way to treat the condition in the long-term. For example, upon its release in the early 1990s, studies found sumatriptan to be “an effective long-term acute treatment for migraine.”[6]

Leading migraine treatments such as Sumatriptan and Imigran can be obtained quickly and easily from the NHS-approved pharmacists at Express Pharmacy. For more information, call us on 0208 123 07 03 or use our discreet live chat


[1] National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Botulinum toxin type A for the prophylaxis of headaches in adults with chronic migraine. 2011 [Accessed February 2019]

[2] Malamut, M. The next big thing in migraine pain relief is already here. New York Post. 2019 [Accessed February 2019]

[3] Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. Grandfather thanks hospital for life-changing migraine treatment. NHS UK. 2019 [Accessed February 2019]

[4] Steiner, T.J. et al. Migraine: the seventh disabler. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2013 [Accessed February 2019]

[5] Shapiro, R.E., Goadsby, P.J. The long drought: the dearth of public funding for headache research. Cephalalgia, 2007 [Accessed February 2019]

[6] Pilgrim, A.J., The clinical profile of sumatriptan: efficacy in migraine. 1994 [Accessed February 2019]


Why Do Women Suffer From Migraines So Much More Than Men?

Posted Wednesday 24 October 2018 15:34 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Research shows that women are much more frequent victims of migraines than men. But why could this be?

Migraines are a well-established and common condition affecting men, women and children alike. One in seven adults experience migraines globally. However, the distribution of attacks is far from equal. In fact, figures from the Migraine Research Foundation suggest that as many as 85% of all migraine attacks are experienced by women.

Anyone who doesn’t experience migraines would be forgiven for assuming that they are simply intense headaches. However, the reality is much more serious. Alongside a throbbing headache, many sufferers experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, light, noise and scent sensitivity and, for some, even temporary muscle weakness on one side of the body. Migraines can last for hours at a time, or even days.

And that’s not all. Around one in four migraine sufferers also experience a collection of sensory disruptions called an ‘aura’, including blind spots, tingling, numbness and light flashes. Research from the American Journal of Medicine also found that migraine auras can increase the risk of ischemic stroke in women under 50.

However, the reason so many women experience migraines compared to men remains largely a mystery.

Director in the Office of Research on Women’s at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Janine Clayton, comments: “We don’t have the answer for why migraines are more common in women than men, but women are more susceptible to every pain condition than men.

“Also, women in pain are not always taken seriously. Women are perceived as excessively seeking help.”

Migraines tend to be worst for young women, and improve with age, meaning that many women experience regular severe migraines during the period of life when they should be most productive. Symptoms like light and sound sensitivity can make it difficult to work and complete daily activities.

Professor of Neurology & Anaesthesiology and Director of the Centre of Headache and Pain Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, Mark Green, is just one of many experts who believes that fluctuating female hormones could be a major influence on migraine attacks.

Green theorises that the drop in oestrogen levels which occurs during a women’s period could be a major trigger of migraines, commenting: “Around period and ovulation, and just after a delivery, levels drop precipitously, which can be a problem.

“After menopause, when the levels of oestrogen remain low and don’t fall, most women’s migraines] improve. Oestrogen falls increase the excitability of the brain cortex. Migraine is a condition where the cerebral cortex is more ‘excitable,’ often genetically, so that is one reason why.”

Theories like Green’s are supported by the fact that, in childhood, boys experience more migraines than girls before puberty. From puberty to the menopause, migraines are far more common in women. What’s more, most migraine attacks in women tend to occur several days before or after menstruation.

However, not everyone agrees. Michael Oshinsky, programme director of pain and migraine at the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, agrees that hormones may play a pivotal role in migraines, he states that “migraine is not a hormonal disorder. That’s a mistake. Think of it as a very diverse disorder. Each patient has to be diagnosed with her own criteria. There are likely many different pathways not working properly in the brain that lead to an attack. It’s a disorder of the nerves and the brain.”

While it may not be entirely clear why women are more susceptible to migraines than men, we do know that effective migraine relief medication is available from Express Pharmacy. Call 0208 123 07 03 or use our discreet live chat service to speak to a member of our team today.

Comments

Miyoshi Miller on Friday 07 December 2018 18:48

I think it has a lot to do with hormonal changes we women go through. Monthly (when were younger) it has to do with our monthly menstruation. When we get older, its menopause. Then our pituitary, triggered monthly regarding ovulation. I really don't know for sure though, just think this might be some of the reasons.

Reply

10 Facts You May Not Know About Migraines

Posted Thursday 30 August 2018 09:17 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Migraine Awareness Week 2018 begins on 2nd September. This is a chance for people to educate themselves on this common affliction, including how to spot the signs of a migraine and how to prevent and treat a migraine effectively. To help boost your knowledge surrounding migraines, here are ten facts you may not know.

Women suffer from migraines more than men

Around three quarters of people who suffer from migraines are women. This could be to do with the cyclical nature of female hormones. One study also found that levels of NHE1 (a protein which regulates the transfer of protons and sodium ions) fluctuate a lot more in women, and NHE1 is a key component of migraine headaches.

Migraines are the world’s third most common condition

Migraines are hugely common, affecting 6 million people in the UK and 14.7% of the world’s population. This equates to around one in every seven people, or one billion sufferers. Chronic migraines are less common, affecting around 2% of people globally. This is when sufferers experience at least 15 headaches per month over a three-month period, with more than half being migraines.

Children get migraines too

It’s not just adults who have to suffer with migraines – around 10% of children experience the condition. In fact, children as young as 18 months old have been known to experience a migraine attack. However, children can also grow out of their migraines. One study found that migraine symptoms had disappeared completely in 23% of child sufferers by the age of 25.

Auras can be a warning sign for some

Less than 25% of migraine sufferers experience distorted senses, but those that do can use them as a warning sign that a migraine attack is on the way. This usually involves blotches of light and dark disrupting their vision between 10 and 30 minutes before an attack.

Triggers can be very different for different people

Migraines can be caused by wildly different factors for different patients, making it difficult for doctors to treat them effectively. Common causes include stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol, dehydration and caffeine, though spicy foods, cheese and even weather conditions have all been known to result in a migraine attack.

Temporary blindness can be a symptom

A retinal migraine is a kind of migraine limited to one eye, and can lead to symptoms such as starry vision, partial blackness or complete loss of vision. It is almost always the same eye which is affected, and sight usually returns after 10 to 20 minutes.

…So can loss of limb function

A hemiplegic migraine is a rare and scary form of the condition which can result in weakness, numbness, tingling or complete loss of function in parts of one half of the body, including an arm, leg or face. This can last anywhere from one hour to several days!

Migraines might be hereditary

Migraines can run in the family. Between 80 and 90% of migraine sufferers report having at least one family member who also lives with the condition. What’s more, one study found that if both parents experience migraines, their child’s risk of acquiring the condition increases by 75%.

Migraines may have inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

In Carroll’s iconic story, Alice drinks a beverage which makes her grow and eats food which makes her shrink. This is reflective of two potential migraine symptoms: micropsia and macropsia. One popular theory is that Carroll suffered with migraines and turned his experiences into a story. Nowadays, related symptoms are even known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

Treatment is available

Many people see their migraines as something they simply have to live with, but this isn’t the case. Safe and effective migraine treatment is available from Express Pharmacy, including Imigran and its unbranded equivalent Sumatriptan. Sumatriptan has been rated 10/10 in independent customer reviews.

Click here to explore the migraine relief medication available from Express Pharmacy, You can also get in touch by calling 0208 123 07 03 or using our discreet live chat service.


From Lazy Days to Holidays: Can These Things Really Cause Migraines?

Posted Tuesday 29 May 2018 15:12 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Nobody wants to suffer from migraines, but unfortunately they are a regular occurrence for almost 6 million people in the UK.

So if you are one of the many people dealing with this condition, here are some of the things you may not realise could be triggering your migraine attacks.

Changes in climate and temperature

Director of the John Hopkins Headache Centre in the US, Dr Nauman Tariq, says that sudden fluctuations in the weather and barometric pressure can sometimes trigger migraines. These are factors which are closely associated with flying abroad, especially to a significantly warmer country. So if you’re planning your summer holiday, make sure you prepare to stop migraines before they hit by staying cool and hydrated when flying.

Sleeping in

A lack of sleep is a well-recognised migraine trigger, but sleeping in can also be a cause for many people. Dr Susan Hutchinson of the Orange County Migraine and Headache Centre says: “Many migraine sufferers find that sleeping in on a weekend can cause them to have a migraine […] The reality is that migraine individuals should try to go to bed at the same time every evening and get up at the same time every morning including weekends.”

Your smartphone

The smartphone has become a staple asset to pretty much all of us in our daily lives, and while this generally makes things more convenient, it is also having a negative impact on our health. Using our smartphones before bed has been shown in multiple studies to reduce our sleep quality, making migraines more likely. The blue light emitted by the screen on many popular devices, including smartphones, can also act as an irritant for migraine sufferers.

Stressful events

Like lack of sleep, stress is a common and well-known migraine trigger. However, it’s also possible to experience ‘let down’ migraines in the time following a stressful event, as the adrenaline which has been getting you through the stress itself begins to dwindle. Dr Hutchinson says that “many migraine sufferers think ‘I can’t wait until this stressful time in my life is over, and I can finally relax’ only to then be hit with a horrible migraine.”

Stress relief measures like meditation, yoga and an overall healthy lifestyle can help you avoid these fluctuating levels of anxiety.

Patterns

Visual patterns like the block patterns you see on some floors stimulate the occipital cortex in the brain, according to Dr David Dodick of the American Migraine Foundation. This cortex is already hyper-excitable in people who suffer from regular migraines, making these patterns a common trigger when present on rugs, bedsheets and other household décor.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a common condition that affects around 5% of the UK population. It occurs when the upper airway is blocked during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for periods of time. Because of the decrease in oxygen concentration which sleep apnoea causes, it has also been shown to lead to migraines. Luckily, the condition is treatable.

Food additives

Food-related migraine triggers often differ greatly between sufferers, but there are some foods which are widely associated with migraines, such as red wine and processed meats. Aged cheeses and fermented food like kimchi or pickles can also lead to migraines, and research has found a link between migraines and artificial sweeteners found in things like diet fizzy drinks.

The headache tree

If you’re planning your summer holiday, you may be considering a break in sunny California. Well if you are, beware! The “Umbellularia californica” [‘California Laurel’] is a tree that’s only found in the coastal woodlands of California, and has a substance in its leaves (umbellulone) which activates a receptor on pain nerve endings that trigger migraines. That’s right, this tree can cause migraines simply by touching it, so admire with your eyes only.

Effective migraine medication is available from Express Pharmacy. Contact the team today for help and advice by calling 0208 123 07 03 or using our discreet online Live Chat service.