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Migraine is the name given to a type of headache caused by changes in the diameter of blood vessels in the brain.

A migraine is usually a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Some people also have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

There are many varieties, but a migraine headache is classically one-sided, associated with the dislike of light, accompanied by nausea or vomiting and varying visual disturbance. In some rare cases, some people may experience temporary paralysis or loss of consciousness.

Some migraine sufferers depend on painkillers and anti-sickness preparations to help control symptoms. Other migrainers take medication which is aimed at preventing attacks. In some cases these methods of dealing with migraines becomes habit-forming causing headaches to occur with greater frequency if the drug is not taken.

Symptoms of migraine

Generally symptoms can last for hours or days.

Many people experience symptoms in advance of the headache such as:

  • seeing flashing lights, lines or spots
  • experiencing depression, irritability with no explanation
  • disturbed sleep
  • sinus troubles
  • neck pain
  • frequent urination
  • yawning

Typical symptoms of migraine include:

  • throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head
  • eye pain
  • sensitivity to light, sound and/or smell
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • numbness or tingling
  • vertigo or double vision

Some migrainers experience a hangover feeling after a migraine, when their body aches all over and experience fatigue, trouble concentrating, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and loss of energy.

Many people with migraine know that chemical exposure can provoke attacks. Often the smell of perfume while walking through a department store or whiff of cigarette smoke outside a restaurant can instantaneously cause an attack.

Another common cause of a migraine is stress. Attacks may be precipitated at the time of stress or as in the relatively common “Saturday migraine”. This type of migraine occurs at the weekend when the working week has finished and when the stressful environment has been left behind.

Most migraine sufferers find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room is the best thing to do when having a migraine attack. Other migrainers find that eating something helps while others only start to feel better once they have been sick.

Identifying the causes

Discovering the root cause of your migraines to prevent attacks, which removes the need for drugs, is the key to controlling this distressing condition.

The blood vessel diameter changes appear to be caused by a brain chemical messenger called 5-HT or “Serotonin”. Most treatment therapies are aimed at blocking the effects of this compound. There are various triggers of attacks and identifying these migraine triggers can be very useful in prevention. Attacks are often the result of a combination of provoking factors such as chemical exposures, foods, and stress. It is the total load of such influences that seems to be important, and reducing the contributions from each of these provoking factors will lessen the total burden on the body; this in turn lessens the likelihood of an attack. (See The Load Phenomenon.)

Another common trigger for migraine is allergy. Often migraine is triggered by foodstuffs such as chocolate, cheese, red wine, oranges and coffee. However, any food to which a migraine sufferer is allergic/sensitive/intolerant may set off an attack.

Treatment of migraine

Migraine drug treatment is basically of three types:

  • Drugs aimed at preventing attacks e.g. Pizotifen
  • Drugs which have a specific action on blood vessels e.g. Ergotamine
  • Drugs aimed at symptom control such as painkillers like paracetamol or codeine, and anti-emitics such as Metaclopamide, often combined with caffeine to speed absorption, which is reduced during a migraine attack.

Sometimes suppository preparations are used to overcome the difficulties caused by vomiting.

At Breakspear Medical, we aim to discover the root cause and prevent attacks, obviating the need for these drugs.We believe prevention of attacks is preferable to suppressing symptoms or treating attacks when they arise. Our doctors will advise on identification of trigger substances, such as foods, using elimination diet, food challenges and skin testing.

The treatment of allergy, intolerance and sensitivity using the technique of low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) is one of Breakspear Medical’s areas of expertise. The technique is entirely safe in our experienced hands, and employs intradermal skin tests and regular LDI treatment. LDI helps people with allergy/sensitivity and many environmental illnesses by reducing the burden on the immune system. More information on LDI…


Breakspear Medical treats each patient individually, which means that there is no set treatment programme for migraine at a specific price.  After your first appointment, you will be given a detailed estimate, with your recommended treatment programme in detail with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact a Patient Liaison Officer, by phone +44 (0)1442 261 333 ext 604, or email:


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