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Monday, 15 March 2010

Dr. Orla Hardiman - Neurologist Beaumont Hospital.

Dr. Hardiman runs migraine clinics in Beaumont and this is her particular specialty.

Eva Farrell

More people in the world suffer from migraines than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined. Two thirds of the sufferers are women, mainly because women suffer from menstrual migraines. They can last up to 72 hours and the symptoms are disabling.

Eva had her first migraine in her mid twenties when she was in Australia. She was nauseous, vomiting and suffered with a headache, which at the time she thought was a tummy bug and the head pain was from dehydration.

She had to lie in a dark room for two full days. This happened to her a few times before she came home and went to the doctor, who diagnosed her symptoms as Migraine with aura, which is known as common migraine. She gets impatient, irritable, weak, her perception is skewed, she's disorientated and very sensitive to light and noise.

Dr. Orla Hardiman

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

A migraine is a neurological condition. Two things happen, one, there is a change or adjustment in the brain and also the blood vessels in the brain become irritated. The mixture between the two is what causes the symptoms of migraine.
A headache is tension in the head but there is no neurological abnormality.

What are the types of migraine?

70% of migraine sufferers get what is called a 'common migraine' or migraine with aura.

The Difference is in the Symptoms:

80% get Common Migraine

. Headache
. Nausea
. Vomiting
. Sensitive to light, Sound and Smell

20% get Classic Migraine: (migraine with aura)

. Vision is affected
. Pins and Needles
. Confusion
. Weakness
. Sensitive to light, sound and smell

Why do people get them?

The only risk factor that is proved is family history and genetics. If you are predisposed to migraine it will be something that you are born with.

Who gets it?

As previously mentioned there is a link with family history, but also with travel sickness and IBS. For someone who is susceptible to either of these conditions are also susceptible to migraine, and vice versa.


. Irregularity/change in sleep patterns
. Relaxation after a stressful period
. Hormonal changes - menopause, menstrual cycle and pregnancy

1. People tend to get an attack when their regular pattern is disrupted e.g. if you are always up at 7 and then lie on at the weekend, change in sleep pattern etc.

2. Stress followed by relaxation. This is why people who suffer from migraine will have an attack when they have a few days off work, or if they are stressed about something, they will have the migraine once the event is over.

3. Women coming up to menopause are particularly at risk of their migraines getting worse, and women find that coming up to their period they will have a migraine.

4. Pregnancy - 1/3 of women report improvement, 1/3 say it gets worse and the last 1/3 say there is no difference!

Food Triggers?

Many people will report that certain foods trigger migraine, and for each individual this may be different.

The most common triggers that are reported are red wine, dark chocolate and smelly cheeses, mainly because of the high content of chemicals in these food. However there this is a theory and not proven, so can be the cause of debate.

How to treat the symptoms?

There are two methods of treatment. One is to stop the migraine in its tracks. There are a few medications that people take, mainly Triptan. This is taken by the patient as soon as they feel the headache at the early stages of migraine. Some patients take aspirin or ibuprofen which can work for some patients, and are less expensive.

The second stage is long term treatment where the patient is given medication to take on a continuos basis for up to 12 months. They then come off the medication (as there are side effects to being on medication long term, which is why Eva gave up taking hers) and they should be in remission from suffering migraines. They are not cured but the tablets work to retrain the brain so that the risk is lower.

Can you become a migraine sufferer at any time of your life?

Generally anyone who gets migraine will have it in the first two decades of their life. People do get it during their life but if investigated it will be a separate condition to migraine but with similar symptoms, and people who may suffer from that may need to get an MRI or further investigation. It is very rare for someone over 40 to start to suffer with migraine.

New research shows that that even a small amount of light on cells at the back of the eye sends signals to the brain, intensifying victims' headaches - is this important?

Migraine sufferers and health professionals know already that they are sensitive to light, but if it is being used in treatment for the future then it is always a positive.

Prices/Stockists/Relevant Information

For more info contact the Migraine Association of Ireland

Helpline 1850 200 378