Close to 1 in 10 of the Singapore population suffers from migrainei, a neurological condition that ranks 4th on the list of top 10 disorders causing years lived with disability for the Singapore population ii.

With this debilitating condition, it can be challenging to stay ahead of your parenting demands but help is on the way with Aimovig, a new treatment that helps prevent a migraine before it strikes.

We asked an expert to find out more about migraine and how it is different from a headache. Read on if you experience frequent headache with aura symptoms such as blurred vision.

Migraines and headaches what to do

1. What are the symptoms of migraine? How is a migraine different from a headache?

Migraine and tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. Up to 80 – 90% of the population has had a headache in their lifetime.

Symptoms of migraine vs tension headaches:

Symptoms of Migraine Symptoms of Tension Headaches
  • Throbbing in nature
  • More intense severity
  • Pain may be concentrated on one side of the head
  • Physical activities can worsen the intensity
  • Sensitivity to lights, sounds and smells
  • There could be symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Auras such as blurred vision, flashing lights and arm tingling may also occur gradually with the headache
  • Tightness around the head
  • Pain tends to be milder in intensity
  • Most of the time, the patient is still able to function

 

 

 

 

 

2. Causes of migraine, is it hereditary?

Genetics and environmental factors appear to be linked to causes of migraine.

Other family members may also suffer from recurrent headaches. Some people are also more sensitive to certain triggers that can lead to headache, for example external environment (weather, smells, sound, emotions, stress, certain foods and drinks.

3. Does lifestyle play a role in adults having migraines?

Lifestyle factors such as poor sleep, missing meals and dehydration may also contribute to headaches.

4. When should one see a doctor?

  • When headaches start to occur regularly/frequently e.g. once or more times a week
  • Reliance on painkillers e.g. taking painkillers on a frequent basis or exceeding the recommended dose
  • Changes in the pattern of your usual headache
  • Headache associated with dizziness, unsteady gait, slurred speech, weakness or numbness, stiff neck, fever, confusion, drowsiness
  • Headache that begins or persists after a head injury
  • New onset headache after the age of 50
  • When headaches are severe
  • When headaches start affecting activities in our daily lives e.g. school, work, interaction with family, social activities

A General Practitioner (GP), family physician or Neurologist will be able to advise you on the likely cause for your headaches and the treatment options.

5. Is it normal to have frequent migraines?

Difference between migraines and headaches

Migraine headaches can be frequent and if not managed properly can transform into chronic migraine that occurs >15 days a month. Frequent exposure to triggering factors or painkiller over-usage can all predispose patients to have frequent migraines.

6. What are some tips to manage migraines? Any treatments available?

Migraines can be reduced and its impact minimised.

There are 2 broad types of treatment:

  • Symptomatic treatment – To relieve the symptoms of a headache e.g. resting in a quiet and dark room, gentle massage, pain medications
  • Prophylactic treatment – To reduce the frequency of headache attacks. This is taken on a regular basis (usually daily) to decrease the headache frequency and intensity over time.

Apart from medications, avoiding triggers and leading a healthy lifestyle can all decrease the occurrence of headache – get enough sleep, keeping well hydrated, have regular meals, exercise and avoid smoking. Manage your stress and emotions.

This article is contributed by Dr Zhao Yi Jing, Associate Consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute.

References

i Ho KH, Ong BK. Community-based study of headache diagnosis and prevalence in Singapore. Cephalalgia.2003; 23:6-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-2982.2003.00272.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12534573

ii The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Top 10 causes of years lived with disability (YLDs) in 2016 and percent change, 2005-2016, all ages, number. http://www.healthdata.org/singapore. Accessed August 2018

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