Around a third of the UK’s population will suffer from a migraine in their lifetime – but, despite their prevalence, they are often passed off as bad headaches, causing the sufferer to endure them in silence.
Community pharmacist Ash Soni explains the differences and how to treat them.
What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?
Headaches are not usually accompanied by other symptoms associated with migraine. However, it is quite likely that if you have migraine you will also experience other headaches.
Headaches can vary greatly in their duration, cause and severity. A hangover headache, for example, goes within a few hours and headaches associated with infectious illnesses fade as your condition improves.
Therefore, it is really important to identify the type of headache you have so you can get the right sort of treatment and advice: a headache can be the result of a whole variety of factors such as head injuries, infections and other medical conditions.
Five ways to spot a migraine
In general terms, migraines are experienced as a headache of at least moderate severity usually on one side of the head and occurring with other symptoms such as:
- Severe and recurring headaches which can be intense and throbbing
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbances
- Neck pain
Migraines usually last from a few hours up to three days. Certain factors are involved in triggering an attack in those predisposed to migraine. These are usually called “trigger factors” and can include lifestyle and hormonal changes.
If you get regular headaches, it is important to see your GP and get a proper diagnosis.
Five ways to prevent a migraine
- Take regular exercise – a daily workout can be helpful for many people who experience migraine attacks
- Keep your sleeping habits regular – make sure you go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time in the morning.
- Eat a healthy diet – it’s important to eat your meals on a regular schedule and always keep a bottle of water and snack handy to avoid dehydration
- Reduce stress – learning stress management techniques can help to reduce the likelihood of triggering a migraine
- Avoid too much caffeine – caffeine constricts the blood vessels in the brain and can trigger a migraine