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Did you know that 15 per cent of the population have been affected by migraines?

However, the causes and symptoms of migraines are often misunderstood.

Migraine Awareness Week, which started on Sunday, aims to educate people on the symptoms and provide treatment advice for the condition.

So, what are migraines?

Migraines are very severe headaches combined with other symptoms.

Prior to an attack, sufferers can experience aches and pains for hours, or even days before the migraine sets in.

Some people who suffer from migraines, experience ‘aura’ symptoms. These are episodes which begin usually an hour or less before the headache. They can often affect vision, causing blind spots, or feel like you’re seeing flashing lights. Other symptoms of ‘auras’ can include pins and needles and numbness in the arms and legs.

The migraine manifests itself as a headache which usually causes a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Some sufferers have other symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light.

Migraine attacks can last from between four and 72 hours and during the attacks, people are often prevented from carrying out usual day-to-day activities.

Migraines generally fade away, with sleep often relieving the symptoms. But sufferers will often feel tired and weak when it’s gone.

· What causes migraines?

The release of the chemical serotonin into the bloodstream is thought to cause migraines as it triggers changes in the brain. However, there is still a great deal of debate and research surrounding the causes.

We do know that migraines are more common in women then men.

It is thought that hormones are responsible for the increased amount of migraines in women, with attacks being more frequent around menstruation.

As well as hormonal changes, there are other factors which can trigger migraine attacks, including emotional and physical stress, plus high blood pressure.

Environmental factors, such as looking at a computer screen for long periods of time, or being in a supermarket with bright lights, can trigger an attack.

And diet and alcohol – particularly red wine – are also known triggers.

· What can be done to treat migraines?

There is no cure for migraines but it is possible to relieve symptoms.

As migraines affect people in different ways, there are a wide range of treatment options.

If you suffer from migraines, it might be worth trying some of the different options available to find a treatment which is most effective for your symptoms.

During a migraine attack, the best course of action is to lie in a dark room.

Sleeping and eating can also lessen symptoms.

· There are various medications which can be used to deal with migraine symptoms.

Consult your pharmacist for further advice on choosing pain relief.

Over-the-counter remedies can be helpful for people who suffer from the condition and are generally the first treatment used to deal with migraines.

Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are often used to deal with migraines and anti nausea tablets can also be used.

It is best to take painkillers as soon as you feel the migraine coming, as this will allow the medication to enter your bloodstream and start working before it begins.

If over the counter options do not help and you require stronger prescription pain relief, visit your GP.

For more information on migraines and treatment options visit migraine.org.uk.