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Expat Investor : November 2008
HEALTHCARE Cause and effect of migraine attacks In this regular column on medical conditions, Dr Torben Staehr Johansen, Medical Director, BUPA International, explains migraine. Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world, affecting around 15 per cent of adults. Although 20–50- year-olds are most likely to experience migraines, around four per cent of children also suffer from the condition. Migraine attacks usually involve a persistent throbbing headache, with sensitivity to light, sound, movement and smell. It is also likely that you could experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and exhaustion, with attacks lasting anywhere from four to 72 hours. Migraines can also cause other neurological symptoms – called aura. There are two main types of migraine: ? Migraine with aura (classic migraine) – according to the Migraine Action Association, about one in 10 sufferers experience aura with migraines. These are usually visual disturbances may including flashing lights, black spots, or distorted vision. You could also experience tingling or stiffness of limbs and neck, or difficulty speaking. Aura symptoms usually develop before migraine symptoms, making it easier to sense when you are going to get a migraine. ? Migraine without aura (common migraine) – the headache comes quite suddenly with the usual migraine symptoms such as a headache, sickness and sensitivity to light sound and smell. But there are no aura symptoms. Although the cause of a migraine is not fully understood, around 80 per cent of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines. Recent research suggests that migraine symptoms are caused by changes in the activity of nerve cells in the brain causing blood vessels to contract and expand, triggering a migraine. An imbalance of the chemical serotonin in the brain is also thought to be a cause. Hormonal change can also trigger migraines, which means that women are twice more likely to suffer from migraines than men. Certain foods, caffeine, alcohol, emotional stress, irregular meals, physical activity, smoking, flashing lights, loud noise and strong smells can all trigger migraines. It may be helpful to keep a diary to help you identify and avoid certain triggers. However, even if triggers are avoided it may not prevent an attack. Most migraines have no obvious definable trigger. If you suffer from mild migraine attacks, it is advisable to take a normal painkiller and rest in a quiet, dark room. Your doctor can also prescribe medications that can help, such as triptans, which correct the serotonin levels in the brain, and other treatments to relieve nausea and vomiting. Non-drug treatments such as physiotherapy, relaxation therapy and acupuncture have also been known to work. For more information on treatments and the prevention of migraines you should seek advice from your doctor. Fast Facts 99191 Because nothing in the world matters more than each other AXA PPP healthcare brings you great British health cover. Wherever you live in the world Your health is everything. So it pays to take the best possible care of it. Whether you’re a resident expatriate or a local national – working, travelling or retired – our International Health Plans bring priceless peace of mind. We’ll give you prompt access to private medical treatment, a choice of hospitals, emergency evacuation or repatriation, and many more benefits. We even have an English-speaking health information line – on call for you, 24/7. With over 35 years’ of international experience, and over 2 million customers in the UK and worldwide, you can trust AXA PPP healthcare to protect the health of those you care for. Join now – and get up to two months cover, completely free. all +44(0)1892 550814 quoting reference EI5555 or visit www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/expat_investor All claims will be assessed against the terms and conditions of the chosen product and any individual exclusions placed on your policy at joining. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. © AXA PPP healthcare 2008 Lines are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturday (UK time). Calls may be recorded. Fast Facts 99010 November 2008 ? EXPAT INVESTOR 17