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What Causes a Migraine?

Posted Monday 08 June 2020 11:20 by in Migraines by Harman Bhamra

Migraines are a common health condition usually characterised as a severe headache. They are more prevalent among women (1 in 5 women experience migraines) than men (1 in 15 men suffer from migraines).

So, what causes migraines? In this blog post, we will outline some of the most common causes of migraines as well as provide you with a way to treat them.

The Different Types Of Migraine

Migraines can be classified into at least three major types:

  • Migraine with aura - a type of migraine where you usually see flashing lights before it begins.
  • Migraine without aura - this type of migraine comes without any warnings. This is the most common type.
  • Silent migraine - this kind of migraine has the typical symptoms of a migraine minus the headache.

Migraines come and go. Some people experience them several times a week while others pass months or years before another episode.

How Do I Know It’s A Migraine?

Most migraine symptoms appear one to two days before it develops fully. This phase is known as the prodrome stage. Some symptoms of a migraine during this period include:

  • Low mood
  • Neck stiffness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Food cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • If you have a migraine with aura, the flashing lights occur after the prodrome stage. During the aura, you may experience other symptoms such as:
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty speaking clearly
  • A tingling or prickling feeling in your legs, arms, or face

After these “warning” stages, the migraine may come in full force. It is during this period where you experience the actual migraine pain (headache) that you are so familiar with. You will know it’s a migraine if you experience a headache that is:

  • Throbbing
  • Debilitating
  • Pounding
  • Pulsating
  • Perforating

Migraines can also feel like a dull, steady headache. For others, it starts out mild and becomes more severe over time especially if no migraine relief treatment is taken.

What Causes Migraines?

The real cause of migraines is still a mystery for doctors. Some studies show that it’s caused by a chemical called serotonin. This chemical is responsible for shrinking (high level of serotonin) or swelling (low levels of serotonin) the blood vessels. The swelling of blood vessels in the brain can cause pain and other problems.

With that said, age, environment, sex, family history, diet, stress, and lifestyle may all contribute in one way or another to a migraine.

What Food Can Cause Migraines?

Certain foods and beverages may cause migraines. Below is an exhaustive list:

  • aged, canned, cured, or processed meat (including bologna, game, ham, herring, hot dogs, pepperoni, and sausage)
  • aged cheese
  • alcoholic beverages (especially red wine)
  • aspartame
  • avocados
  • beans (including pole, broad, lima, Italian, navy, pinto, and garbanzo)
  • brewer’s yeast (including fresh yeast coffee cake, doughnuts, and sourdough bread)
  • caffeine (in excess)
  • canned soup or bouillon cubes
  • chocolate, cocoa, and carob
  • cultured dairy products (such as buttermilk and sour cream)
  • figs
  • lentils
  • meat tenderizer
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • nuts and peanut butter
  • onions (except small amounts for flavouring)
  • papaya
  • passion fruit
  • pea pods
  • pickled, preserved or marinated foods (such as olives and pickles, and some snack foods)
  • raisins
  • red plums
  • sauerkraut
  • seasoned salt
  • snow peas
  • soy sauce

Migraine Relief

While there’s no current cure for migraines, there are treatments which help to relieve the symptoms. Some of the common migraine relief treatments available include:

Sumatriptan

This type of medication contains an active ingredient called Sumatriptan succinate. It actively works by relieving the temporary swelling of blood vessels in the brain, relieving the pressure and thus, the migraine pain you feel. You can buy Sumatriptan from Express Pharmacy and get it delivered to your doorstep in plenty of time before your next symptoms occur.

Imigran Nasal Spray

Imigran is one of the most common branded migraine treatments. Imigran Nasal Spray also contains Sumatriptan succinate as its active ingredient. This treatment provides fast-acting relief against migraines.

Compared to its tablet-counterpart, Imigran Nasal Spray offers a more pleasant form of application. It also reduces the risk of rebound headaches which is common among patients who rely on migraine relief tablets for a long time.


What the Location of Your Headache Can Tell You

Posted Monday 27 January 2020 09:00 by in Migraines by Harman Bhamra

It’s common for most people to suffer from the occasional headache, but when it comes to migraines, an estimated 1 in 7 people suffer. This guide will provide you with information on what the location of your headache can tell you, including ways to effectively treat migraines.

What Is The Difference Between a Headache and a Migraine?

Both headaches and migraines are defined as ‘continuous pains in the head’. However, while the underlying symptoms may be similar, migraines are far more severe and last far longer.

The extreme pains which come from migraines initially start as a throbbing feeling (similar to a headache). From here, a migraine sufferer may begin to feel nauseous, start vomiting and become sensitive to light/sound.

What Types Of Headache Are There?

There are several different types of headaches and migraines to be aware of, and the location of the ache plays an important part in distinguishing the type. Headache and migraine pains typically occur in any of the following:

  • Face
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Eyes
  • Temples

Read on to discover what the location of your headache can tell you.

Pain Around/Behind The Eyes

Pain behind, in or around the eye can indicate that you are suffering from cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are given their name due to recurring frequently over several weeks or months, typically only on one side of the head. They can be very painful and often translate into migraines when the symptoms become more severe.

The pains from cluster headaches can move to other regions, such as…

  • Cheeks
  • Nose
  • Temples
  • Neck
  • Shoulders

Other symptoms of cluster headaches can include…

  • A runny or bunged-up nose
  • Nausea/sickness
  • Sensitivity to light/sounds

On average, these headaches can last from half an hour to several hours and, in some cases, can stick around for up to three days.

Please note: It is also common for cluster headaches to make the eye appear red, droopy, teary or swollen.

Pain In Your Neck

The majority of people suffering from migraines experience neck pains, yet people often dismiss the idea that they may be linked. Migraines and neck pains can be triggered by many factors, with the following being most common:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Diet
  • Alcohol

Paying attention to the above triggers and actively working to keep them under control may reduce your risk of suffering from a migraine and associated neck pain.

Tension On Your Scalp

A tension headache is generally identified by having scalp discomfort; somewhat like a tightening feeling.

Tension headaches differ from other types of headache as they can often cause pressure-like pain on both sides of your head (other head pains generally stick to one side). You may also experience pain in the following areas with a tension headache:

  • Forehead
  • Temples
  • Back of the head
  • Neck
  • Shoulders

Stress is a big factor when it comes to tension headaches, but muscle and joint pain can also trigger them, too. It is not uncommon for tension headaches to become chronic, and if this is the case, it is recommended to use specialised medication for migraine relief or prevention.

Painful Sinuses

A sinus headache is another form of a tension headache/migraine. Pain around your eyes, across your nose and around your cheeks can signify this type of headache, often giving the feeling as though constant pressure is being applied. The pain can be made more severe through exercising, sudden activity or leaning down/upside down.

These pains can be an indication of a minor sinus disease which would require a visit to the doctors, but if this is the case, you would also be experiencing…

  • Plugged Ears
  • Swollen face
  • Fever
  • Nasal mucus

How To Get Rid Of a Headache

It is always advised to seek a doctor if any head pain becomes chronic, disabling, begins to impair your vision or causes seizures.

If you suffer from consistent migraines and are seeking treatment, there are numerous options available.

Lifestyle Changes

In terms of preventing migraines, the following lifestyle changes are recommended:

  • Staying clear of high-fat or salty foods
  • Getting a full night sleep
  • Avoiding severe stress

Migraine Medication

There are also many migraine treatments that can keep everything under control. Express Pharmacy offers numerous fast-acting medication options that will help you to win your battle against migraines.

Imigran Nasal Spray allows you to treat your pain quickly, without the need for oral medication and so is beneficial to those who have difficulty swallowing pills. Imigran Nasal Spray eases pressure in your brain to aid your discomfort; this is easy to have in your bag or at work to ensure you can treat migraines as soon as they appear.

Alternatively, Sumatriptan 50mg is a more affordable method to treat your pains quickly and effectively. This medication doesn’t just stop the pain of your migraine, but it works to help reverse the changes made in your brain that cause your attacks; while simultaneously treating your symptoms.

Live a Migraine-Free Life

Headaches and migraines are often unpredictable, but by analysing the symptoms and locating the pain, you can actively work to reduce the symptoms. Get in touch with our pharmaceutical experts on 0208 123 0703 if you require more guidance.


True or False: Are These Real Migraine Cures?

Posted Friday 24 January 2020 09:44 by in Migraines by Tim Deakin

Despite being such a common health concern, there are still many uncertainties surrounding migraines

Migraines impact as many as 1 billion people worldwide, making them the third most prevalent illness in the world.[1] Yet despite this, there is a lot of misinformation spread about migraines, and this can leave people confused by the condition even if they suffer from it themselves.

We’re going to take a closer look at all things migraines, exploring whether some of the most common migraine ‘cures’ stand up to scrutiny.

What are migraines?

Contrary to popular belief, a migraine is more than just a headache. It is a severe bout of head pain which is usually concentrated in one side of the head. Migraines can also cause further symptoms such as sickness, nausea and increased sensitivity to light or sound.[2]

How do migraines appear?

There is no single cause for migraines, as every case is different and comes with its own ‘triggers’. These can include lack of food, alcohol, hormonal changes, environmental changes, lack of sleep and stress, among others.[3]

In general, migraines are caused by the activation of a mechanism in the brain which releases pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.[4]

Because causes of migraines are difficult to pin down, determining concrete cures for migraines can be equally tricky.

Are these real migraine cures?

There is no cure

TRUE AND FALSE

It is true that there is no set cure for every migraine. But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.

Less than 5% of people living with migraines actually seek out treatment or the advice of a headache specialist.[5] So while a one-size-fits-all cure is difficult to determine, bear in mind that there are plenty of measures to put in place which may work for you.

For example, migraine patients are often suffering from co-occurring conditions such as obesity, hypertension or anxiety. In these instances, treating these conditions can alleviate migraine symptoms.[6]

Light and temperature control

TRUE

Sensory sensitivity is one of the most common migraine symptoms, so it’s no surprise that reducing your exposure to harsh lights, noises and temperatures can help ease your pain. Many people find that lying down in a quiet, dark and cool space can reduce the length and severity of a migraine attack.

Creating a sleep routine

TRUE

There is a clear relationship between how well you sleep and whether or not you suffer from migraines. Both sleep loss and oversleeping are common headache triggers, while regular, good quality sleep has been shown to result in fewer headaches.[7] Creating a bedtime routine you can stick to every day can be an effective way of reducing your symptoms.

Following a strict diet

FALSE

While there is a relationship between food and headaches, it’s more about what you’re not eating as opposed to what you are eating. Many people like to blame their migraines on particular foods, such as chocolate, but actually the most common food-related migraine cause is failing to eat altogether. For this reason, following a strict diet can often do more harm than good. There is no migraine diet, but missing meals is a well-established migraine trigger.[8]

It changes for everyone

TRUE

As we mentioned earlier, there are many migraine triggers and these can vary between sufferers. This is part of the reason why it is difficult to determine a single cure for migraines. When the cause changes, so does the cure. In order to alleviate your migraines, you need to identify your own triggers and take steps to avoid them.

Medication

TRUE
There is indeed medication that is safe and effective in its treatment of migraines and cluster headaches.

Popular medication options like sumatriptan have been proven through rigorous research to be an effective means of reducing migraine symptoms. In one trial, 74% of migraine sufferers found that their symptoms had significantly decreased after 15 minutes of taking sumatriptan, compared to just 26% of placebo patients.[9]

Find safe and effective migraine relief treatment right here at Express Pharmacy. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0208 123 07 03. You can also contact us using our discreet online Live Chat service.

[1] Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine statistics. 2020

[2] NHS UK. Migraine. 2019

[3] The Migraine Trust. More than “just a headache”. 2019

[4] World Health Organisation. Headache disorders. 2016

[5] Hribar, C. Migraine Statistics. Migraine.com. 2019

[6] Rosenberg, J. Migraine has an impact on both healthcare costs and lost productivity. American Journal of Managed Care. 2019

[7] American Migraine Foundation. How Sleep Disorders Interact with Headache and Migraine. 2019

[8] Afridi, S. PhD. Food and diet. The Migraine Trust. 2016

[9] Ekbom, K. MD. et al. Treatment of acute cluster headache with sumatriptan. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1991


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.

Comments

Michael Lancaster Smith on Monday 21 October 2019 14:01

Another physical trigger is minor head trauma.

A casual minor blow to the head is a well recognised precipitating factor which I can report from personal experience.

Reply

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]