Migraines: What are they and how can you overcome them?

By on April 6, 2020

A migraine is a more severe form of a headache; a commonly reported symptom includes an intense, throbbing pain on the side of the head. Other symptoms include vision disturbance, vomiting and sensory sensitivity (to light, sound, and smell). Migraines can last between 4-72 hours; the symptoms, frequency, and duration vary considerably from person to person.  

The prevalence rate of migraines in relation to the global population is approximately 12% [1]. Despite the high individual variability, the prevalence rate difference between men and women is significant, women are 2 to 3 times more likely to experience migraines compared with men [2]. Women are also more likely to experience more extreme symptoms that last longer, this gender difference is reported to be due to female sex hormones coupled with underlying genetic variance [3]. Knowing how to effectively treat migraines is essential to minimize associated discomfort and disruption. 

The 3 types of migraines

  1. Migraine with aura – Aura describes neurological disturbances that occur prior to the onset of a migraine. These disturbances manifest in the form of flashing lights, dizziness, tunnel vision or colored spots. Whilst experiencing aura is not pleasant, it does act as a warning to the individual that a migraine is soon to follow. 
  2. Migraine without aura – This form of migraine is most common. Approximately 70-90% of people will experience this form of migraine. There are no warning signs which can be incredibly disruptive to daily life. Treatment is necessary to treat the pain and help mediate the symptoms. 
  3. Migraine with aura but without headache – Where aura symptoms are experienced but a headache is not. Known as a ‘silent migraine’, this form of migraine is rare in both men and women. 

Cause and triggers of migraines

The exact cause of migraines is unknown; however, they are reported to possibly be caused by abnormal brain activity, temporarily influencing nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels. 

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The following factors are thought to be common migraine triggers [4]:

  • Hormonal changes For women, hormone fluctuation due to menstruation is a prominent migraine trigger and thought to explain migraine gender differences.
  • Stress – Increased stress is thought to induce the likelihood of migraine onset.
  • Fatigue – Caused by a lack of sleep or sleep quality, tiredness is a known trigger.
  • Diet – Alcohol, and caffeine are commonly known as triggers for migraine attacks. Furthermore, chocolate and citrus fruit in addition to foods containing tyramine, such as cured meats, cheeses, and smoked fish are also known as dietary triggers. 
  • Environment – Sudden significant changes to your environment such as strong smells, loud noises, flickering computer screens, and passive smoke/pollution present possible triggers. 

Treating Migraines


Over the counter (OTC) medication such as Paracetamol taken immediately following the onset of a severe headache or migraine may be sufficient to help minimize pain and discomfort. Paracetamol can be ordered online reliably and efficiently from Pharmica Online Pharmacy. With more intense symptoms commonly associated with migraines, OTC pain relief may not be enough to attenuate migraine discomfort. Stronger medication in the form of Triptans may be necessary.


If over the counter medication is ineffective, Triptans are a stronger alternative and may offer better relief. Triptans or ‘serotonin agonists’ help to relieve pain through narrowing blood vessels in the brain to reduce the severity of symptoms. Triptans such as Sumatriptan (the branded version is called Imigran), are prescription migraine medications which can be obtained from your GP or alternatively, delivered quickly and discreetly to your door from reliable online pharmacies such as Pharmica

Other treatment options

Following the first-line therapy of OTC medication and Triptans to treat the symptoms of migraines, other forms of treatments such as acupuncture, anti-sickness medication and seeking further advice from a specialist are all effective methods to try. 

Coping and managing migraines

  • Review your daily/weekly routine – This is a great starting point. Seek advice with a specialist to help identify triggers and treatments.
  • Sleep – Make sure you get sufficient sleep of approximately 8 hours per night. Avoid caffeine and unplanned late nights or late mornings 
  • Keep a migraine diary – Keep track of your triggers and treatment effectiveness so you can either continue or change your coping strategy. 
  • Stress Management – Try yoga, meditation, and exercise for effective stress reduction. 


  1. Yeh, W.Z., Blizzard, L. and Taylor, B.V., 2018. What is the actual prevalence of migraines?. Brain and Behavior, 8(6), p.e00950.
  2. Vetvik, K.G. and MacGregor, E.A., 2017. Sex differences in the epidemiology, clinical features, and pathophysiology of migraine. The Lancet Neurology, 16(1), pp.76-87.
  3. Vetvik, K.G. and MacGregor, E.A., 2017. Sex differences in the epidemiology, clinical features, and pathophysiology of migraine. The Lancet Neurology, 16(1), pp.76-87.
  4. NHS 2020. Migraine Causes

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Migraines: What are they and how can you overcome them?