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Migraine

Migraine is a particular type of severe and recurring head pain. The exact cause of the pain is not known, though it hal been linked with muscular spasm of arteries in the head. The arteries first narrow, then widen, though why they do this is not clear. Somewhere between one in file and one in ten of the adult population are said to suffer from this condition. It is more likely to occur in energetic, lively people and some sufferers report that it is triggered by overwork, stress or the release of stress, taking the contraceptive pill, flashing lights, or certain foods such as chocolate, cheese, fruit and fried items.

Symptoms

Before a migraine attack there is often an aura, a warning sign such as flashing lights or zig-zag patterns before the eyes, or a tingling feeling in the face or limbs. Then comes the headache: a severe, throbbing pain usually on one side of the head, accompanied by feelings of nausea or actual vomiting and possibly dislike of bright lights. The sufferer is virtually incapacitated by the pain. Other symptoms include redness and watering of one eve, and possibly a runny nose. The attack may last from a few hours to a day or more, and may recur after a few days, or not till months or years later.

Treatment

A first attack of migraine is a frightening event and a doctor should be consulted who may order special tests such as X-rays to eliminate other causes of the headache. One common fear is that the pain is caused by a brain tumour, but as doctors have been known to say, You cannot have a brain tumour on Wednesdays and Saturdays and not for the rest of the week.'

Once the pain is diagnosed as migraine, there are several self-help procedures the sufferer can carry out. For example, lie down in a darkened room and relax; trying to carry on as normal will probably make the attack last longer. Keep a diary of attacks and try to ascertain whether there are any trigger factors such as particular foods or stressful events; if so, take action to remove them. Worry about the migraine (which is an extremely unpleasant but not inherently dangerous condition) can itself bring on further attacks, so discuss the situation fully with your doctor until you are satisfied and understand the problem. Several types of drug may help certain migraine sufferers; some help to prevent the attack, others reduce the severity of an attack once it begins. These drugs do not work for everyone, and should be taken exactly as prescribed.

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