Embarrassing Bodies Down Under

Headaches: What Everyone Should Know

About half to three quarters of adults in Australia have had a headache at some point in the last year but migraines are a lot less common. Learn more from Dr Brad McKay from Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.

Headaches are one of the most common health conditions that Australians experience, and a whopping 15% of us are taking painkillers at any one time. About 12% of us have had a migraine. Headaches are really common, people get them every day. Migraines are a little bit more severe.

People who have migraines can experience severe throbbing pain on one side of their head. They can also experience nausea, sometimes vomiting, accompanied by an aura at the start where people get flashing lights or blurred vision. They can also be sensitive to light, sound, sometimes taste as well as smells.

Causes of Migraine

We don't know what causes migraine in a lot of people but we do know what triggers it. Some people have their migraines triggered from having too much or too little sleep. Dietary factors, periods, having stress or fatigue or even being excited can really cause migraines for some unknown reason.

Something's triggered in the brain tissue that causes the blood vessels that lead to it to shrink down, to clamp down, It's like a hose kinking off. It starves that part of the brain of oxygen and that's often when people get that shimmering light with that aura. Once the aura's finished, that really means that the blood supply is going back into the brain and the body triggers the arteries to open up and let a lot of blood flow in and that's when you get this horrible throbbing headache where the blood's rushing into that area of the brain, swelling it up and all that stretching and all that increase of blood flow and increase of fluid there causes that horrible horrible severe headache.

Treatment for Migraine 

There is no cure for migraine but we can avoid triggers and we can use medications to stop things from occurring. Some triggers can be alcohol, especially red wine can cause problems. Cheese can set some people off. Caffeine and chocolate unfortunately can trigger these migraines to occur so avoiding all of these things can be really helpful. There are other non drug therapies as well, so relaxation strategies, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, all these things can calm down stress levels and stop headaches and migraines from developing. Medications including simple analgesia like paracetamol and aspirin can be very beneficial especially if taken at the start of a migraine occurring so when people are seeing those starry lights coming in with that aura, taking that medication there it will often stop things from progressing.

If you've just started getting migraines or if you normally have a particular migraine but it's changing, it's important to speak with your doctor because something more sinister may be going on. You may require a CT scan or an MRI to make sure that there's nothing else happening behind the scenes.

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