Charles Triay (General Practicioner) gives expert video advice on: What is a migraine?; Is there a cure for migraines?; I get headaches after working at my computer, why could this be? and more...
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a particular type of headache which typically presents as a one-sided headache. It will sometimes cause flashing lights before your eyes, will often cause nausea and vomiting, and can be so severe that it becomes extremely debilitating. Migraines are episodic and the patient will sometimes experience an initial type of symptom which will warn them that the migraine's coming on. In the more severe cases, the patient can even experience neurological symptoms such as weakness of the limb or other focal symptoms that can be extremely frightening. They would always need adequate medical assessment and investigation.
Is there a cure for migraines?
I don't believe that we can nowadays talk of a cure for migraines. The underlying feature that causes a migraine pain is an excessive narrowing and dilatation of the arteries in the brain, and therefore the treatments are aimed at trying to prevent these from happening and trying to deal with them once the headache has been established. In people who suffer frequent migraines, meaning on a monthly basis or even weekly basis, one would consider preventative treatment, and this involves taking a medication on a daily basis to prevent the headaches from coming on. In those patients that suffer migraines less frequently, one would consider simply to give them a medication that can effectively deal with a headache as it comes on. It is important to remember that these medications are effective only if taken early on in the migraine. Otherwise, they lose all of their effect completely.
I get headaches after working at my computer, why could this be?
Headaches associated with the use of computers can be divided into a few simple reasons. The first reason is simply that you are under tension in front of a computer, and inevitably you are developing a tension headache. Inevitably, the type of work that is being done on the computer can help diagnose, or establish, this type of a cause. Another cause for headaches in front of a computer might be that you might have an inadequate visual acuity; that you may need glasses, and hence, the strain of having to read something that's on the computer screen without proper correction can sometimes also cause a headaches. But it is true that the lighting of the screen, which is usually imperceptible to the human eye can, in certain patients, induce headaches, and it would always be appropriate to consult a doctor if you develop headaches with a particular task, be it computers or any other regular task.
I always get headaches around menstruation, is this normal?
Headaches around menstruation, if severe enough, cannot be considered as "normal" because they will be interfering with your normal lifestyle. Headaches are often, or at least sometimes, associated with the pre-menstrual part of the cycle and can be associated with hormonal variations in the body. During this part of the cycle, there is fluid retention, and there are a number of other physical changes that take place that can contribute towards headaches and would, therefore, need to be checked by a doctor before considering that they are normal or can be accepted without needing any further treatment or investigation.
Should you give children painkillers for headaches?
Children with headaches need to be considered as a potentially serious problem. The reason why we worry about headaches in children is because of the risk of meningitis. Therefore, if a headache is severe, it always needs to be checked by a doctor. But then, kids will often suffer headaches and they needn't be severe. They might not even last very long. They might just disappear as soon as you distract the child. So I think one's got to try and be sensible as to how you approach a child with a headache. If a child is well, happy, eating properly, not running a fever, and complains of a bit of a headache, I think it would be acceptable to give him a mild analgesic, such as the paracetamol based products and watch him for a few hours to see if things settle or if the problem deteriorates. But certainly kids with a headache which are severe, or, is getting worse, I think need to be checked by a doctor.