A bad headache is enough to dampen anyone’s mood; but a migraine can be completely debilitating, preventing you from carrying out the rest of your activities. Migraines are common and affect up to 10% of our population in Singapore. However, they can be managed with healthy lifestyle choices and medication.
We speak to Dr Andrew Fang, an anchor doctors at Doctor Anywhere, on the common causes of migraines and how to treat your migraine when it occurs.
How do I tell a headache apart from a migraine?
“Migraine is a specific type of headache that typically occurs in one area of the head,” says Dr Andrew. “Migraines also come on gradually as an ‘attack’, with each ‘attack’ getting progressively more painful until the ‘attack’ usually revolves itself.”
“While migraines can happen to anyone, they tend to be more common in adult women than men,” shares Dr Andrew. Some women may find that migraine attacks tend to coincide with hormonal changes and occur just before or shortly after onset of menstruation. “The risk of migraine is also higher if there is a family history.”
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What are the common triggers of migraine episodes?
Migraines can have a variety of triggers, from environmental and emotional factors to the foods that you eat. Dr Andrew elaborates, “Typical triggers include:
- Inadequate rest or sleep
- Glaring lights
- Certain foods (e.g. those with preservatives) and drinks (e.g. caffeine and alcohol)
- Hormonal changes, such as during menstruation for women.”
What are some lifestyle changes that might help prevent future headaches?
Identifying what triggers your migraines is the first step towards learning how to manage them effectively, such as by reducing your exposure to these triggers.
In addition to this, Dr Andrew emphasises the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “This includes:
- Ensuring you get quality sleep. This means sleeping at least 7-8 hours a day and going to bed at regular timings.
- Exercise regularly — a good rule of thumb is to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day of moderate intensity.
- Eat healthily and try not to skip any meals.”
If your migraine persists after a prolonged period, consult your doctor for advice on how to better manage your migraines.
What are the treatment options available for migraines?
Apart from lifestyle changes, Dr Andrew shares that medication can help to control migraine headaches.
“Generally, paracetamol and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are effective enough to help with migraine attacks”. For more critical cases, Dr Andrew suggests taking specific anti-migraine medications, like cafergot and triptans, which can be prescribed by your doctor.
“For patients with very frequent attacks, your doctor may also recommend specific types of medication to prevent the attacks from happening”.
What are the serious repercussions if you leave perpetual migraines untreated?
“Often, migraine headaches go undiagnosed and untreated. However, if left untreated, they can impair your daily activity, productivity and quality of life.”
You should visit a doctor if you’re suffering from frequent migraines. “Consulting a doctor can also help you to rule out other possible causes of your headache which can be serious or treatable,” shares Dr Andrew.
If you have a history of headaches, it’s also good to seek medication attention if the pattern of your headaches changes or the headaches suddenly feel different. These could be a sign of other health conditions.
Although these tips are general guidelines you can follow, every person’s health is still personal to them. If your migraines are increasing in frequency or severity, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor with medication delivered to you in 3 hours.