Migraines

Frequency and causes

There are countless different types of headaches, of which migraines are one of the most common. Around one in five women and one in twenty men suffer from migraines, particularly between the ages of 25 and 45, and it is still not absolutely clear what causes them.

Typical migraine symptoms

Typical migraine headaches occur suddenly, with a pulsating pain that is usually more pronounced on one side of the head. The pain usually increases during physical exertion and can last for anything from a few hours up to a maximum of three days. It is often accompanied by nausea (with or without vomiting), an aversion to light and sensitivity to noise. Around one fifth of migraine sufferers experience what is known as an “aura” shortly before the headache begins. This can manifest itself as visual disturbances with blind spots in the field of vision or as sensory or perceptual disturbances.

Diagnosing migraines

Migraines are often diagnosed on the basis of typical symptoms and patients’ descriptions of their experiences. However, other types of headache and other diseases that can cause headaches must always be considered and ruled out when making a diagnosis.

Treatment options

Depending on the situation and the specific symptoms in each case, there are numerous methods and treatment options which can provide relief from migraines. Certain lifestyle adjustments may also help, such as establishing a stricter everyday routine, getting enough sleep, and eating and drinking frequently but not excessively.

Medication for nausea and vomiting, traditional painkillers or specific medication for migraines can be used to treat acute migraine attacks, depending on what the situation requires. However, painkillers and specific migraine medication must not be taken too frequently (maximum ten days of use per month) as this can lead to chronic headaches (known as medication overuse headaches).

At the patient’s request, or in the case of very frequent, severe or prolonged migraine attacks or migraines that significantly impair everyday life, medicinal and non-medicinal measures can also be considered to help reduce the frequency of the attacks (migraine prophylaxis). Preventive treatment may be helpful and effective in other situations too.