Migraines can be a very distressing occurrence with a significant impact on wellbeing and quality of life. Occurring at varying degrees of both frequency and severity, they regularly result in time off work or school and have the potential to be severely debilitating. It is estimated that there are 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England and an estimated 6 million sufferers in the UK alone, with approximately 18% of episodes occurring in women and around 6 % affecting men.1 However, these statistics may be inaccurate as it is thought that many sufferers self-medicate with over the counter preparations and do not report their symptoms to a GP, or seek advice from healthcare professionals.
Given the prevalence of this distressing condition it is likely that practice nurses and nurse prescribers will encounter patients affected, and it is therefore hoped that this article will enhance knowledge and give greater confidence in offering advice and treatment.
One of the key factors studied is that of a genetic influence with research showing that 70% of those affected have a first degree relative with a history of migraines, with a greater prevalence among white females.2 The combined oral contraceptive pill is also linked to onset of migraines and should therefore be stopped and switched to an alternative method of contraception should this occur.