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Migraine

Migraine headaches are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, an upset stomach, and, at times, disturbed vision.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

About Migraine

A migraine is not the same as a normal headache. Most people have headaches from time to time. These are usually tension headaches. Migraines, though, are sudden and strong, pounding headaches on one side of the head. They can greatly affect everyday life. Some people only have occasional migraines, but others have them every month for several days at a time.

Symptoms

Migraines are typically moderate to severe headaches that only affect one side of the head. They usually come on very suddenly and are described as throbbing or pounding headaches. The pain is often made worse by physical activity or even just a little movement. If left untreated, migraines last between four hours and three days, and may be associated with nausea and vomiting. Some people become extremely sensitive to sound and light during migraine attacks.

Before their actual migraine symptoms become noticeable, some people see flashing lights and strange shapes, or their vision is distorted. For example, they might see everything as a blur or through wavy lines... Read more about Migraine

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Efficacy and Safety of 5HT1B/D Reseptoragonists, Triptans, for the Treatment of Migraine Disorders [Internet]

Background The Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Service (NOKC) was requested by the Norwegian Medicines Agency to do a health technology assessment (HTA) on the efficacy and safety of 5HT1B/D receptor agonists, triptans, for the treatment of migraine disorders.

Medicines to prevent vestibular migraine

Vestibular migraine is a form of migraine in which the main symptoms relate to dizziness and the balance system. It is a common problem, known to affect 1% of the general population and possibly more because it is thought to be under diagnosed. There is still no agreement on which is the best treatment available to prevent attacks of vestibular migraine.

Headaches: Diagnosis and Management of Headaches in Young People and Adults [Internet]

Many non-specialist healthcare professionals can find the diagnosis of headache difficult, and both people with headache and their healthcare professionals can be concerned about possible serious underlying causes. This leads to variability in care and may mean that people with headaches are not always offered the most appropriate treatments. People with headache alone are unlikely to have a serious underlying disease. Comparisons between people with headache referred to secondary care and those treated in primary care show that they do not differ in terms of headache impact or disability.

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Summaries for consumers

Medicines to prevent vestibular migraine

Vestibular migraine is a form of migraine in which the main symptoms relate to dizziness and the balance system. It is a common problem, known to affect 1% of the general population and possibly more because it is thought to be under diagnosed. There is still no agreement on which is the best treatment available to prevent attacks of vestibular migraine.

Sumatriptan (intranasal route of administration) for acute migraine attacks in adults

Sumatriptan is one of the triptan family of drugs used to treat migraine attacks. It is available as a nasal spray, and this route of administration may be preferable for individuals experiencing nausea and/or vomiting, although absorption of the drug occurs primarily in the gut rather than the nasal mucosa. This review found that a single intranasal dose was effective in relieving migraine headache pain and associated symptoms of nausea, sensitivity to light, and sensitivity to sound. Pain was reduced from moderate or severe to no pain by two hours in approximately 2 in 10 people (24%) taking sumatriptan 10 mg, compared with about 1 in 10 (10%) taking placebo. Pain was reduced from moderate or severe to no worse than mild pain by two hours in 5 in 10 people (50%) taking sumatriptan 10 mg, compared with approximately 3 in 10 (32%) taking placebo. In addition to relieving headache pain, sumatriptan also relieved symptoms of nausea and sensitivity to light and sound by two hours in about half of those who took it, compared with about one‐third of those who took placebo. The 20 mg dose had greater efficacy, but may be associated with more adverse events, most of which were of short duration and mild or moderate in severity.

Sumatriptan (rectal route of administration) for acute migraine attacks in adults

Sumatriptan is one of the triptan family of drugs used to treat migraine attacks. It is available as a rectal suppository in some countries, and this route of administration may be preferable for individuals experiencing nausea and/or vomiting. This review found that a single dose administered rectally was effective in relieving migraine headache pain and functional disability. Pain was reduced from moderate or severe to no pain by two hours in approximately 2 in 5 people (41%) taking sumatriptan 25 mg, compared with about 1 in 6 (17%) taking placebo. Pain was reduced from moderate or severe to no worse than mild pain by two hours in roughly 2 in 3 people (71%) taking sumatriptan 25 mg, compared with approximately 1 in 3 (30%) taking placebo. In addition to relieving headache pain, sumatriptan 25 mg also relieved functional disability by two hours in about 2 in 5 people (41%), compared with about 1 in 6 (16%) taking placebo. There was not enough evidence to draw any conclusions about the incidence of adverse events or to compare rectal sumatriptan directly with any other active comparators.

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Terms to know

Aura
An aura is a perceptual disturbance experienced by some with migraine or seizures before either the headache or seizure begins.
Headache
Head pain or discomfort.
Nausea
A feeling of sickness or discomfort in the stomach that may come with an urge to vomit.
Primary Headaches
Headaches that occur on their own with no detectable underlying cause, such as migraine.

More about Migraine

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Migraine disorder, Migraine headache, Migraine attack, Sick headache

See Also: Cluster Headache, Tension-Type Headache

Other terms to know: See all 4
Aura, Headache, Nausea

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