Migraine is a type of headache affecting about two million Australians. More women than men suffer from migraines. It is characterised by severe and often debilitating headaches, lasting anywhere from four hours to three days. During this period, other comorbid symptoms include sensitivity to sound and light, nausea, and vomiting may emerge. Migraines can be classified as chronic if an individual experiences episodes every day for over half a month, for three months of the year.
Despite there being a large number of people who suffer from them regularly, the cause of migraines is unknown. In about half of all cases, an affected individual has family members who also suffer from migraines. Some individuals have identified triggers that might cause a migraine for them. Common triggers include certain foods, bright lights, loud sounds, stress, and changes in sleep and daily routines.
About a third of affected individuals report auras, which last for up to one hour long, before the onset of migraine symptoms. These may be in the form of seeing flashing lights in one’s vision, changes to one’s sense of smell, tingling sensations in the face and limbs and difficulty in concentration and coordination.
Typically, the symptoms associated with migraines are managed with painkillers, and where nausea is present, anti-nausea medication. Prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications may be obtained from a GP as well if over-the-counter medications prove to be ineffective.
Cognitive issues associated with migraines
Migraines are often debilitating and can cause significant impairment for affected individuals. During a migraine, the pain prevents the individual from being able to exercise their full cognitive capacity or go about their daily activities.
In children, migraines are described to have a detrimental impact on some cognitive domains, including processing speed, attention and memory. Headaches in adults have been linked to decreased executive function, although this connection was not specific to migraines.