Migraine is inherited in up to 60 per cent of sufferers and affects three times more women than men.

Symptoms of an attack can include an intense throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and smells and, in severe cases loss of consciousness or paralysis on one side. An attack can be utterly debilitating and can last between 4 hours and 3 days.

About 20 per cent of people experience migraine ‘aura’ which refers to a range of neurological disturbances eg visual such as flickering lights or blind spots; muscular weakness; numbness; slurring of speech; loss of co-ordination or confusion.

Migraines are ranked by the WHO as the 6th most disabling disease worldwide

Whilst some people experience only one or two attacks a year, others suffer on a weekly or even daily basis to the extent that their quality of life is substantially reduced. 

Trigger factors, whilst they do not ‘cause’ migraine, can precipitate an attack. While some people may be very sensitive to specific triggers, others may be vulnerable only when several triggers combine at once.

Common triggers:

  • Stress
  • Food and alcohol
  • Hormonal changes
  • Too much/little sleep
  • Change of routine
  • Too much/little exercise
  • Meteorological or environmental triggers
  • Flicker from TV/computer screens
  • Poor posture

Although there is no cure, migraine can be managed by tracking personal patterns in a migraine diary, learning the advance warning signs and discovering how to proactively defend against an attack.

The Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI) exists to provide information, support and reassurance to migraine sufferers and their families via a website www.migraine.ie, a helpline (1850 200 378) and regular free public seminars.