UCL Occupational Health Service: Migraine Week, 1-7 September

27 August 2014

The World Health Organisation recognises migraine as one of the most disabling lifetime conditions, yet awareness and understanding of the condition is low. The Migraine Trust works to raise awareness of the condition as a serious public health issue as there are more people who suffer with migraine than with diabetes, asthma and epilepsy combined. It affects 1 in 7 people; that’s over eight million people in the UK alone.

A migraine is usually an intense headache that occurs at the front or on one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. Unlike tension headaches people can become disabled by the symptoms and have to stop what they are doing. An attack can last anything from four hours up to three days.

Stages of Migraine

  • Prodromal (pre-headache) stage. This can include changes in mood and energy levels may be affected as well as behaviour and appetite.
  • Aura. Some people experience a sensation or aura just before their migraine starts. Symptoms include flashes of light or blind spots, difficulty focusing and seeing things as if looking through a broken mirror. This stage lasts around 15 minutes to an hour.
  • Headache stage. This is usually a pulsating or throbbing pain on one side of the head and often experience of nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds. This stage can last for four to 72 hours. 
  • Resolution Stage. Some people find the headache stops suddenly after they have vomited. Sleep often relieves the symptoms.
  • ‘Postdromal’ or recovery phase. This is when there may be a stage of exhaustion and weakness afterwards.

During an attack: Most people find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room is the best thing to do when having a migraine. There is currently no cure but a number of treatments can be used to ease the symptoms. If you cannot manage your migraines with over the counter medication then visit your GP.

Know your TriggersTriggers such as food, emotional and hormonal factors can influence an attack up to 48 hours before the headache starts. Keeping a migraine diary can help monitor triggers and therefore help prevent an attack. http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/factsheets/migraine-diary

The migraine trust offers information and an enquiry service, which responds to issues about migraine and disabling headaches. Visit http://www.migrainetrust.org/contact or telephone 0207 631 6975.

Your Employee Assistance Programme

UCL staff requiring support can contact their employee assistance programme: email atassistance@workplaceoptions.com or freephone 0800 243 458. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Further Information

The Migraine Trust

Migraine Action

Headache UK

Elaine Fletcher, Occupational Health Services, Human Resources Division