For most people, a headache happens occasionally and can be quickly cured with something to eat, a short rest or a couple of painkillers.
Most headaches are harmless and can be relieved with self-help measures and pharmacy painkillers. Only a few (around 5%) are a sign that something is seriously wrong. These more serious headaches are often accompanied by other warning signs. For example, a headache accompanied by a rash and a very high temperature could be meningitis.
Get medical advice urgently if your headache occurs suddenly and severely, especially after a blow to the head, or if its accompanied by a fever or feelings of drowsiness.
The following article has been provided by Medilink, a FREE health advise and guidance service that enables all expats in Spain to access qualified staff for any enquiry they have in relation to health.
Migraines affect more than 15% of the UK population
Migraines are much more than just a headache. The Migraine Action Association says that migraines are the most common neurological (nerve-related) condition in the developed world. They affect more than 15% of the UK population. Around two-thirds of migraines are in women. Migraines affect more people than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.
Attacks, which can last from 4 to 72 hours, can be completely disabling, and can prevent people from carrying out their usual activities for up to three days. Even when they dont have symptoms, people affected may live in fear of the next attack.
There is no cure for migraines, but it is possible to control them with a range of treatments. However, whats successful for one person may not work for another, so its important to keep trying different treatments until you find one that works for you.
Around 10% of people who have migraines also experience aura symptoms. These are disturbances that start 15 minutes to an hour before the headache. They can include blind spots, flashing lights, zigzag patterns, tingling, pins and needles, or numbness in the limbs.
Abdominal migraines often occur in children. They cause recurrent attacks of abdominal pain lasting for several hours. When the child reaches adolescence, this often changes to the more common migraine pattern.
Migraines in women are often linked to hormone changes. True menstrual migraines occur within two days either before or after the first day of a monthly period and at no other time.
There are other rare forms of migraine, some linked to genetic defects.
Migraines are believed to be caused by the release of a chemical called serotonin into the bloodstream, resulting in changes in the brain. Exactly what causes this to happen is still a subject for research and debate. However, certain factors that can trigger attacks in susceptible people have been identified.
• emotional stress, such as anger, tension or shock
• physical stress, such as overexertion or travelling
• diet, such as infrequent meals, alcohol (especially red wine) or additives
• environmental causes, such as supermarket lights, computer screens, smoking or loud noise
• hormonal causes, such as puberty, menstruation or pregnancy
• high blood pressure, eye strain or the use of sleeping tablets
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