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Useful tips on tackling painful migraines

22 January 2017

Sussex GPs will soon be receiving new guidelines on how to treat migraine patients more effectively. This is good news for sufferers as often their symptoms can be misdiagnosed. Dr Romi Saha, neurologist at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove, says that, as well as effective treatments, there is a lot people can do to help themselves.

If your headaches make you light, noise or smell sensitive and all you want to do is lie down in a dark room, then these are likely to be migraines.

Some people complain of one-sided headaches, while others notice zig-zag lights or sparkles before their eyes. However, every sufferer is different and around two-thirds don’t experience these symptoms.

But for 90% of migraine sufferers, an attack can be debilitating, leaving them unable to function normally.

You can get migraines for the first time at any age, but people often have had their first one by the time they are 30, and attacks usually get less severe as you get older.

If you are getting symptoms several times month, then make an appointment with your GP but also try these self-help tips:

Lifestyle changes:

  • Don’t allow yourself to get dehydrated – drink at least two litres of fluid a day
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Reduce the amount of coffee or tea you drink and avoid caffeinated drinks like Red Bull – it might help get you through a tough day, but can trigger a headache later.
  • Stick to a routine bedtime and waking uptime where possible. Many people find they have a migraine attack at the weekend because they have spent weekdays going to be at 10pm and getting up at 6.30am, then suddenly they are up until midnight on a Friday night and lie in bed on Saturday.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week

Natural remedies: Magnesium, riboflavin (a B vitamin) and Co-enzyme Q10 can help ward off a migraine. They can be bought in a supplement form from health food shops or the natural remedy aisle of high street chemists or can be found naturally in the following foods -

Magnesium: dark chocolate, bananas, low fat yogurt, nuts and seeds, avocadoes, soy beans, leafy greens and fish.

Riboflavin: milk, meat, eggs, nuts, enriched flour, and green vegetables.

Coenzyme Q 10: chicken, herring, mackerel, beef, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pistachio nuts, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, strawberries and soybean oil.

Painkillers: Avoid regular use of over-the-counter medicines, especially those which contain codeine as this can aggravate the headache. Take a painkiller as you feel the headache coming on. However, taking any form of painkiller on more than 10 days a month can lead to analgesia overuse which can make the headache worse. Visit your GP who can recommend alternative, and more effective, painkillers. Patients with debilitating symptoms may be referred to a neurologist to rule out other causes of the headache.

Dr Romi Saha holds a neurology clinic on Monday evenings and alternative Tuesday afternoons at the Montefiore Hospital, Montefiore Road, Hove. For a non-obligation enquiry, phone 01273 828 148. For more information about migraines, visit www.migrainetrust.org.

First published in Brighton and Hove Independent on Sunday 22nd January 2017.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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