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A Migraine is a headache that does not have any root causes, it cannot be inherited, it effects more women than men and it is often mistaken for a tension headache. It is described as a genetic disorder whose typical symptoms are easily recognisable to a doctor.

A migraine is often described as either a mild or severe throbbing and pounding pain on one or both sides of the head and around the temples. It can also affect the back of your neck or feel like pressure on your face, eyes and sinuses (movements of the head can increase the pain) and can have a large disabilitating effect on the sufferer. The pain usually starts off mild and gradually increases to intense or severe pains. Migraine attacks usually last from 4 to 72 hours and in some cases for several days!

What are the Symptoms of a Migraine?

There are two main types of Migraine:

A 'classic' migraine- this has the 'aura' symptom

A 'common' migraine- this is without the 'aura' symptom

Classic migraine ('aura' symptom)
Symptoms that can indicate to a migraine sufferer that an attack is likely to occur can include: yawning; hunger; visual disturbances (such as halos); flashing lights; zig-zag lines - which is the 'aura' symptom.

Common migraine ('non-aura' symptom)
Symptoms that can indicate to a migraine sufferer that an attack is likely to occur can include: nausea; vomiting; stuffy or runny nose with watery eyes; dizziness; mood changes; depression; dislike of bright light and loud sounds. Those suffering from migraine always seek a quiet, darkroom to lie down in.

What Triggers a Migraine attack?
Though a migraine attack can be triggered for no apparent reason, in some people, certain factors may trigger the attack. Triggers can include:

Diet - Dieting too fast, irregular meals, inadequate water intake, cheese, chocolate, red wines, citrus fruits, and foods containing Tyramine (a food additive).

Environmental - Smoking and smoky rooms, glaring light, VDU screens or flickering TV sets, loud noises, strong smells.

Psychological - Depression, anxiety, anger, tiredness, lack of sleep etc.

Medicines - For example, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), certain sleeping tablets and the contraceptive pill.

Other Factors - Periods (menstruation), shift work, irregular sleep patterns, the menopause.

The majority of experts believe that during a migraine attack, blood vessels on the surface of the brain expand causing the area around them to become inflamed and thus irritating the nerve endings. This expansion and irritation may account for the pain that is experienced during a migraine and may also lead to nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and other symptoms that are associated with migraine.

How can it be treated?
There is no miraculous cure for migraine currently. Nevertheless, it is possible to bring the condition under control. There are a wide range of effective treatments that are available but due to the complexity of migraine, a treatment that works on one patient may not work on another. It is therefore important to persevere, with the help of your GP, until you develop a management plan that works best for you.



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