Every week we ask a health question to a medical expert. This week it is: I often suffer from migraines. Is there anything that can be done about this? General practitioner Katrien van Wijnendaele: “Migraine is almost three times more common in women than in men.”
What exactly is migraine?
“A migraine is an attack of severe headache that can last from half a day to three days. It usually causes throbbing pain on one side of the head. It can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. And the pain gets worse with exercise.”
What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?
“Everyone has headaches from time to time, but with migraine, for example, it is really impossible to work anymore. Some patients are also sensitive to sound and light. Sometimes the headache is preceded by a so-called aura.”
What is that?
“An aura is a phenomenon in which you see a stain that sometimes has all kinds of colors. The stain is often jagged or accompanied by flashes of light. In principle, the attack itself is not harmful. But in migraine patients it is often a precursor to headaches. “
How do migraines develop?
“It is caused by stimulation of the nerves. This causes the blood vessels in the head to open more, which causes pain. Stress, poor or insufficient sleep, fatigue and fasting sometimes trigger migraines.”
“Migraine is almost three times more common in women than in men”
Katrien van Wijnendaele, general practitioner
“Diet can also play a role. Some people have a hard time tolerating the sweetener aspartame, the flavor enhancer glutamic acid in Chinese food and ready meals, sulfite in red wine or nitrates in spinach, among other things.”
Is it true that women are more likely to have migraines?
“Migraines occur almost three times more often in women than in men. This is due to the sex hormones. Many women develop migraine complaints just before their period or when the stop week of the pill starts. Menopause also has an influence: for half of the women. In that period nothing will change in migraine patients, for a quarter the complaints are getting less and for a quarter they are getting worse.
What can you do for migraines?
“To prevent migraines, it is important to avoid stress and poor sleep as much as possible. If you already have migraines, take your rest. For some people, paracetamol helps. Take 1000 mg in one sitting. If you feel nauseous and feel sick. you are vomiting, a suppository may be a better option. If it doesn’t work enough, take ibuprofen. “
When do you have to go to the doctor with migraine complaints?
“If you get migraines for the first time after 40, see the doctor. Generally, the disease manifests itself at a young age. I usually send older patients who first experience it to the neurologist for further evaluation. Er nothing has to be wrong, but it is possible. “
“Also go to the doctor when regular pain medication is not working properly. The doctor can prescribe triptans. These reduce the blood vessel dilation and thus interrupt the attack. And ring the bell if the auras look different from normal.”
Katrien van Wijnendaele is a general practitioner in Barneveld