A migraine is a severe headache causing pain in the front or side of the head.
In the UK, migraines affect about 15% of the population and the headaches are three times more common among women than men. Migraines usually first start in young adulthood but it is possible for the headaches to start later in life.
There are several different types of migraine but the most common are migraines with aura and those without aura. Aura is the term used to describe warning signs that occur just before the migraine starts such as visual problems (e.g. flashing lights) or stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Less commonly, a migraine without a headache occurs where only aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but no headache actually develops.
Severe migraines can be disabling and very distressing with sufferers needing to stay in bed for days at a time and therefore sometimes having to be absent at school or work.
It’s not fully understood what causes migraines, but common triggers of the condition include stress, disrupted sleep pattern and tiredness, poor posture, certain foods or drink such as chocolate, cheese, and caffeine, loud noises, bright or flickering light, and dehydration.