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Migraine - more than just a headache

Migraine does not kill but it can destroy people’s lives.  Kate Scurr of The Migraine Trust describes the condition and what the Trust is doing to educate sufferers and health professionals.

Migraine is the most prevalent neurological condition in the developed world, and according to the World Health Organisation is one of the 20 most disabling lifetime conditions.

People who suffer with migraine are usually affected between their early twenties and their forties. Eighty per cent of all migraine sufferers are women.

Many people therefore expect their migraines to get better as they get older and look forward to spending their later years free of migraine.

Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone.  Older people often continue to suffer from frequent symptoms, visual disturbance in particular.

Migraine symptoms can affect older people’s confidence to go out and limit the activities that they can enjoy. 

The condition costs the UK economy an estimated £3 billion every year and results in 25 million days being lost from work and school. Between 10-20 per cent of migraine sufferers are unable to work due to their condition.  

People with migraine have a higher chance of major depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicide, psychotic disorders and strokes than those without migraine. 

What is migraine?

Migraine has many symptoms but for most people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, sound and smells, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and disturbed vision.

There is no known cause for migraine and no-one knows why some people have migraine and others do not. It is thought that people with migraine have a nervous system that is more sensitive than usual.

People with migraine are therefore sensitive to certain factors in their environment which can trigger a migraine attack.

These can include stress, lack of food, alcohol, lack of sleep, the environment and hormonal changes in women.

A migraine attack can last up to five days and can include a period of up to 72 hours of a throbbing headache. On average, sufferers have one attack per month, but 17 per cent of sufferers have more than forty attacks per year.  

How can it be treated?

There is currently no cure for migraine, and although there are a huge range of drugs available, there are no standard treatments for migraine either.

Many people with migraine find that drugs are necessary to either prevent or treat a migraine attack. Yet it is also important that migraine sufferers learn about what may be causing their migraines and to look at other ways they can manage it.  

The Migraine Trust educates migraine sufferers and health professionals about managing migraine so that together, in their phrase: 'we can beat it'.

Who are The Migraine  Trust?

The Migraine Trust is the UK’s health and medical research charity for migraine.  It works with scientists, academics and industry to find a cure for migraine.

Since being established in 1965 the Trust has funded over 130 medical research projects and has funded scholarships for some of the leading neurologists in the world.  

It also helps migraine sufferers to better understand their condition and to improve health professionals’ knowledge of migraine by:

  • Promoting Migraine Awareness Week every year;  
  • Organising public information events across the UK;
  • Putting free downloadable fact sheets and articles on its website;
  • Organising training for health professionals;
  • Running a free Information and Enquiry Service to provide evidence based information about migraine.

How you can help

The Migraine Trust receives no Government funding and relies upon the generosity of individuals, trusts and foundations.  

Often relatives choose to remember their loved one by making an In Memoriam collection on behalf of The Migraine Trust at the funeral.  

The Migraine Trust is also thankful to those who choose to leave a gift in their will as it relies on legacies to continue funding vital research into the causes of migraine to improve diagnosis and treatment and ultimately to find a cure.  

For more information visit The Migraine Trust's website.

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