Migraine, headache and stroke

Family Health Diary

When someone gets a bad headache, they may say they have a migraine, but they might not. The pain of a headache can range from mild to severe. The pain of migraine can range from moderate to severe. Migraines often include other symptoms.

  • A headache is usually on both sides of your head. Migraine pain is usually on one side of the head or behind one eye or one ear (though it can sometimes be on both sides).
  • The other symptoms of migraine can include nausea, vomiting, spots or flashing lights and a sensitivity to light and sound.
  • The pain of migraine feels different. It is usually intense pain and throbbing and commonly prevents the person from continuing with their usual daily tasks.

Migraine can be with aura or without aura. The aura is when you feel something before the headache starts. You might get strange sensations like flashing lights, numbness or feeling like you’re not as alert a you had been. Some people experience an unusual smell or taste. If you get an ‘aura’ these symptoms generally start 10 to 30 minutes before the actual headache beings. Some people find that if they take their medicine as soon as they experience the aura, they can prevent the migraine from progressing.

There are medicines that are specific for migraines that are not usually effective for ‘normal’ headaches. Your doctor can prescribe medicines that may help to prevent your migraines. There are other medicines that can be used to treat a migraine.

Many people use sumatriptan to treat their migraines. If you run out of your prescribed sumatriptan, you can purchase two 50mg tablets after a consultation with a pharmacist. Pharmacists are allowed to sell sumatriptan to you if you regularly have migraines and the symptoms are the same as usual. This is to make sure that your doctor knows you get migraines and that you are not suddenly getting more or much worse migraines.

Most people wouldn’t think of using aspirin for a migraine and yet, research shows that 1000mg of aspirin relieves migraines as effectively as 50 or 100mg sumatriptan. Aspirin also thins the blood so is sometimes prescribed to reduce the chance of blood clots causing a heart attack or a stroke.

It is important to visit your doctor regularly if you suffer with migraines. Research shows there is a relationship between migraines and stroke. The association is even stronger between migraine with aura and stroke.

One sort of stroke is ‘migrainous infarct’. This is a stroke that happens while you are having a migraine with aura that lasts for at least an hour. Considered a complication of migraine, these strokes are very rare, accounting for approximately 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent of all strokes.  All the same it is important to know that a stroke is possible during a migraine.

So if a headache of any sort comes on very suddenly and is very severe; contact a doctor immediately. This is especially true if you have not had a headache like this before. If you begin to develop stroke-like symptoms while having a migraine, or at any other time, it is important to call 111 as you need to go to hospital immediately.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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