Migraines, the eyes and eyesight

Migraines

Migraine is a neurological syndrome characterised by a constellation of symptoms which may include recurrent and severe headaches, often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be extremely debilitating and affect a person’s daily life.

Here are some key points about migraines:

  • Headache Pain

    The hallmark of a migraine is a throbbing or pulsating headache, usually on one side of the head. This pain can be moderate to severe and can last for hours to days.

  • Auras

    Some individuals experience auras before or during a migraine. Auras are usually visual disturbances, such as flashing lights, or zigzag lines. These auras will often start in the periphery before encroaching more centrally. They usually last between 20-30 minutes and will occasionally lead to temporary loss of vision. Not everyone with migraines experiences auras.

  • Triggers

    Migraines can be triggered by various factors, including certain foods (such as alcohol, cheese, chocolate, and processed meats), hormonal changes (common in women), stress, irregular sleep or exercise patterns (too much or too little), specific odours or bright lights and even some medications such as glyceryl trinitrate (used for heart conditions).

  • Phases

    Migraines typically have four phases: prodromal (pre-headache symptoms like mood changes or food cravings which can last hours or even days), aura (if present), headache, and postdrome (a “hangover” phase with fatigue and mood changes).

Treatments for Migraines

The most suitable treatment for migraines will differ between individuals and its efficacy can also be variable. Treatment options include over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes. Some people find relief through relaxation techniques, avoiding triggers, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

  • Lifestyle Management

    Lifestyle changes such as stress management, regular exercise, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and dietary modifications can help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.

  • Preventive Medications

    For individuals with frequent and severe migraines, doctors may prescribe preventive medications to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Certain medications (known as triptans, ditans, and Gepants) have been used with success in treating the symptoms of acute attacks of migraine.

  • Future remedies

    There are several potential novel treatments in the pipeline awaiting approval by NICE for use in migraine treatment in the UK.

Diagnosing Migraine

Diagnosing migraine is not always simple, especially as there is a wide variation on presenting symptoms. Taking a detailed medical history and keeping a headache diary can be invaluable. For sufferers with an aura, a dilated eye health check may be needed to exclude other causes of visual disturbances (like flashes and floaters and retinal detachment).

The Effects of Migraines

Migraines can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, making it important to seek appropriate treatment and support. If you suffer from migraines, it’s essential to consult qualified healthcare professionals for an accurate diagnosis and to have a personalised treatment plan set up. With more severe cases, or for those who do not respond well to treatment, a full physical and neurological workup may be required to rule out other medical conditions.

The Causes Of Migraines

The causes of migraine are still not well understood, but they are often an inherited condition that are neurological and not vascular in origin. Current research suggests that in migraine sufferers, the areas within the brain that should ignore external sensations are instead hypersensitive to these. It is generally believed that a specific part of the brain, called the hypothalamus is very likely to be involved.

It’s important to note that migraines can vary widely from person to person in terms of symptoms, triggers, and severity. If you or someone you know is experiencing migraines, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to develop an effective management plan tailored to the individual’s needs.

Here are some key facts about migraines:

  • 1 in 7 adults in UK suffer with migraines

  • Migraines are the 3rd most common disorder in the world

  • Migraines typically affect people between 18-65 years of age, with the UK prevalence being between 5-25% of the female population and 2-10% in males

  • Globally up to 15% of population is estimated to be affected by migraines

  • Migraines are the commonest neurological problem seen by GPs in the UK

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