A New Migraine App For Children

migraine app for children

As many migraine sufferers are all too well aware, the condition can be an isolating one. It’s not an easy thing for those who don’t suffer from them to fully understand – a common issue of invisible illnesses the world over.

 

With this isolation in mind, an app designed for young migraine sufferers has been developed by a pair from Cambridge who experienced this migraine-isolation issue in their own childhoods. They hope that their app will be able to address the lack of connection which younger sufferers in particular can feel.

 

The app is called Happyr Health, and it has been created alongside psychologists and migraine experts. It features an augmented reality avatar that children can talk to within a safe and secure environment. From the child’s conversations, and from information from a parent dashboard, the app also aims to identify individual migraine triggers, in addition to being a place where the child can relieve their worries and talk openly about their migraines.

 

It’s still early days for Happyr Health, but it has good foundations – in the summer its founders were awarded a £10,000 Cambridge University Entrepreneurs grant, and there has been a crowdfunding appeal to help get the app into the marketplace.

 

Happyr Health has partnered with the National Migraine Centre for making the beta version of the app, with the first mobile version of the app due to be launched in the New Year (2021) and compatible with Google Chrome.

 

Naturally, talking to real people is key in fighting isolation and loneliness, but Happyr Health could prove to be an invaluable resource for children who need a place to talk freely and without fear about their migraine experiences.

Travel Tips for Migraine Sufferers – Part Two

Sadly, even in a normal year, travelling is not the easiest thing for migraine sufferers to do. Changes in things such as routine, climate, and altitude (flying is not always migraine-friendly) can lead to a migraine attack.

 

travel tips

 

This is part two of our travel tips for migraine sufferers. Hopefully these tips will help to make your future travels that much smoother and less impacted by your migraines.

 

Choose Your Transport Wisely

The changing altitude (and therefore changing pressure levels) which comes with flying may make it a big no-no for you. Maybe plan to travel by train, boat, or car if you can. If you can’t, and the flight is a long one, try to choose a flight that doesn’t involve changing planes so you minimise the number of pressure changes you have to experience during your journey.

 

Travel to Similar

A sudden change in temperature, air pressure, or humidity are all things which migraine sufferers have noted as being a migraine trigger. Going from somewhere experiencing cold winter weather and low air pressure to somewhere with boiling sun and high pressure is likely to throw your body into a tailspin. If weather changes are a major migraine trigger for you, try to travel to places which have a vaguely similar climate to the one you’re already in. Or, at least, maybe save trips to hot countries for when it’s summer where you live. It will still be a change in temperature, but the difference won’t be so extreme and may be more manageable.

 

Clothing in Transit

When you’re travelling, the last thing you want is any pressure from what you’re wearing. Choose your comfiest clothes to travel in and never mind if they’re old joggers and a hoodie. The idea is to reduce your potential stress as much as possible. The more comfortable you are, hopefully the more relaxed you are.

 

Clothing on Arrival

If you are travelling to somewhere with a different climate to the one you’ve just come from, be prepared. Have a change of clothes with you in your hand luggage, or at the top of your suitcase, which you can quickly change into as soon as you arrive at the other end. Sweating buckets because you’re in winter clothes on a Mediterranean island is going to do your migraine risk no good at all, and will also quickly make you dehydrated too!

 

Schedule in Rest

Being constantly on the go is not great for migraine sufferers. Yes, you want to experience as much as you can of the place you’re visiting, but if you overdo it and get a migraine attack, that’s not going to help you do that. When you plan your itinerary, schedule in rest days, or rest afternoons if not whole days, where you can relax and recharge. This may mean resting in your room, or you may relax by reading a book in a quiet café or doing some calm activity that doesn’t take much energy (either emotional or physical). By doing a bit less to prevent a migraine attack, you may be able to do more overall.

Travel Tips for Migraine Sufferers – Part One

Covid-19 has made travel this year an activity which most of us have been unable to enjoy. With potential solutions to the pandemic on the horizon (at least partial solutions), the prospect of travelling next year is looking far more likely.

 

 

For those that want to travel, the risk of migraine attacks ruining their trip can make them think far more than just twice about whether or not to go, but hopefully following these travel tips will help you to travel with the minimum amount of pain.

 

Plan Ahead

Stress is a major migraine trigger. In fact, it has been listed as the top migraine trigger in multiple studies of migraine sufferers. With this is mind, keeping stress levels as low as possible is vital, and planning in advance will help to do that.

Three things you can do when planning ahead are:

  • Pack your bags at least a day in advance so you’re in no rush and have plenty of time to fetch any last-minute essentials.
  • Plan leeway into your travel schedule so you can be sure to get to the airport or train station etc in plenty of time.
  • Work downtime into your itinerary so you have time after you arrive to recover from the journey before you start doing things.

 

Make A Migraine Travel Kit

If a migraine strikes while you are travelling, you don’t want to be rooting through your suitcase trying to find what you need – especially if that suitcase may be in the hold of a plane! Pack an emergency kit you can keep on you at all times so you’re always ready no matter when or where a migraine may hit. This kit may include:

  • An eye mask and/or sunglasses to guard against harsh and flickering lights
  • Your migraine pain medication
  • Earplugs
  • A heat/cool pack
  • A snack
  • Water
  • A note explaining your condition in English, but also in the language of the area you are travelling to.

 

Adapt in Advance

Disrupted sleep patterns can be another major migraine trigger for sufferers, so if you’re travelling to somewhere with a different time zone, start to adapt to it in advance. Try moving your day by half an hour each day ahead of your trip. If you don’t have long before you go, try moving it by an hour. Getting your body used to waking up earlier/later than it’s used to by small degrees is much kinder than moving your day by four hours all at once!

 

Fighting Migraines With Green Light

green light

 

Migraine sufferers will know well the pain of being around flickering bulbs and harsh fluorescent strip-lights. Not all lighting is migraineur-friendly, and some of it is of such a bad or triggering quality that it helps to bring on a migraine attack.

 

There are some lights that could be beneficial however, and actually reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine sufferers’ attacks.

 

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona Health Sciences found that a very specific wavelength of green light, when used in a therapeutic manner, resulted in a 60% reduction in the pain intensity of the headache phase of migraine attacks, and reduced the number of days per month that sufferers had migraine headaches.

 

The study involved 29 people who suffered from either episodic or chronic migraines, and who had not found traditional therapies such as Botox injections and oral medications effective. During the study, these participants were exposed to white light for between one and two hours a day for ten weeks. The participants were given a two-week break, and then exposed to green light for between one and two hours a day for ten weeks.

 

The participants reported back the effects of the treatment through regular surveys and questionnaires. Using a scale of 0 to 10, it was found that green light resulted in a 60% pain reduction (from a pain rating of 8 to 3.2), that it reduced the duration of the headache pain, and that it improved participants’ ability to perform chores, exercise, work, and to fall and stay asleep.

 

As well as being an inexpensive form of therapy, the green light therapy was seen as a good option for migraine sufferers as it did not result in any side effects for the participants.

 

The lead author of the study, Mohab Ibrahim, MD, PhD, explained that;

 

“It’s not any green light. It has to be the right intensity, the right frequency, the right exposure time and the right exposure methods. Just like with medications, there is a sweet spot with light.”

 

“As a physician, this is really exciting. Now I have another tool in my toolbox to treat one of the most difficult neurological conditions — migraine.”

 

Are Migraines Putting Women Off Pregnancy?

pregnancy

According to research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, almost 20% of women with migraines said that they avoided pregnancy specifically because of their migraines.

 

The researchers who reported the findings evaluated responses from women with migraines who took part in the American Registry for Migraine Research – an observational study which signed up participants from specialty headache clinics across the US. Between February 2016 and September 2019, 607 women with migraines completed questionnaires for the study.

 

Results found that, of the 19.9% of women who avoided pregnancy because of their migraines, 72.5% believed that their migraines would get worse during a pregnancy, 76% believed that their migraine medication would impact on their baby’s development, and 82.6% felt that their migraines would make raising a child more difficult. One shocking finding from the questionnaire results was that 72.7% of the women who avoided pregnancy were worried that the child would have an increased risk for migraines

How to Get Better Sleep (And Maybe Fewer Migraines?)

better sleep

When you suffer from migraines, you can easily find that your sleep is disrupted. That is if it is not impossible to get at times! Not only do migraines badly affect sleep, but since not enough (or, conversely, too much) sleep is a migraine trigger for many sufferers, it can become a vicious cycle of interrupted sleep from migraines leading to more migraines, leading to more bad nights, and so on.

On the positive side, there are some things you can do to help maintain a good quality of sleep, and in turn, hopefully reduce the frequency and severity of migraines you experience.

 

Stick to a schedule

If you regularly fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day, your body will become used to the routine and will be able to regulate your body clock. Giving your body a consistent amount of sleep will help it to run smoothly.

 

Make a ritual

If you have a ritual set of activities you do before you go to bed your body will know that it’s time for sleep, and make it that much easier for it to switch off! Try to stay away from screens for at least an hour before you go to bed. The light which screens emit have been proven to disrupt sleep and make it harder to switch your body off. Maybe read a book before bed, have a bath, or do half an hour of mediation. Whatever works for you

 

Separate your sleep space

If you don’t have a comfortable and calm space to fall asleep in, your body will find it so much harder to drop off. Keep your bed as a place you sleep, and don’t be tempted to visit it during the day, or watch TV from bed, or (even worse!) work in bed.

Migraine Treatments – Ask Yourself If They Work

migraine treatments

 

Each migraineur is an individual whose migraine attacks will be unique to them. This means the length of their attacks will differ from other sufferers, as will their symptoms, their attack frequency, and what treatments are effective for them.

 

Since not everyone will respond to every migraine treatment, it’s important to be able to find out if a treatment is effective quickly. If the treatment doesn’t work, it’s time to try something else. Sadly there is no out-and-out, problem-solved cure for migraines – so a 100% stop to migraines is not a plausible outcome to measure efficacy against.

 

Instead these are some questions which you can ask yourself:

 

  • Are you pain-free in 2-4 hours?

 

  • Are you able to function normally (or close to normal) in 3-4 hours?

 

  • Does your headache respond to the treatment consistently at least 50% of the time?

 

  • Are you comfortable with taking the treatment prescribed and still able to plan your day?

 

The American Migraine Association says that if you responded “no” to one or more of these questions then your treatment should be reassessed.

However, it normally takes a few months to see whether a migraine treatment is effective or not. So you do have to give it some time before deciding that a specific treatment is not for you.

It’s also worth asking whether you are taking your treatment early enough in the migraine attack for it to be effective. There is a “window of opportunity” which is typically the two hours after the onset of head pain. After this time there is less chance that the body will respond to the treatment.

Could A Magnesium Deficiency Be Making Your Migraines Worse?

magnesium deficiency

There are a variety of different factors which might make someone more likely to suffer from migraines. For example, you are more likely to suffer from migraines if you are; female, if you suffer from depression, if your family has a history of migraines, and these are to name just a few.

A magnesium deficiency is another thing which can make it more likely that a person will suffer from migraines.

A systematic review (the findings of which were published in the scientific journal Nutrients) found that there is a correlation between magnesium deficiency and headaches; and that this is an independent risk factor for migraines. Not ingesting enough magnesium, in addition to increased loss of it throughout the digestion process, can contribute to the deficiency.

It is possible to include more magnesium in your diet by eating foods that contain high levels of magnesium such as nuts, dark leafy greens, seeds, whole grains, beans and fish. It is also an option for those who have a migraine deficiency to take tablet supplements, or magnesium salts (though a doctor should be consulted before starting to take supplements).

Magnesium is an important mineral for the body to have. It is involved in enzyme and nerve activity, DNA and protein synthesis, and many key bodily functions. In terms of migraines specifically, magnesium has been shown to inhibit pro-inflammatory intracellular signalling. For some migraine sufferers, inflammation of blood vessels in the brain is a key element of their migraines – so a lack of magnesium (which helps to keep inflammation down) is especially bad news.

It’s also worth noting that a lack of magnesium was found in some migraineurs who suffered with aura migraines as a result of cortical spreading depression. Investigators explained that magnesium decreases the level of circulating calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is “involved in migraine pathogenesis through its ability to dilate intracranial blood vessels and produce nociceptive stimuli.” 

It has been reported that magnesium, with its relative lack of side effects, is particularly compelling for the treatment of migraines and headaches within groups in which side effects are less well tolerated (such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly population). The review authors therefore concluded that, “the use of oral magnesium salt represents a well-tolerated and inexpensive addition for the treatment of headache patients, to reduce the frequency of attacks and the costs of treatment both in terms of economic burden and adverse events”.

A New Lens to Fight Chronic Migraines

A contact lens designed by a group of researchers from the University of Ghent and the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (imec) in Leuven may prove to be useful to some migraine sufferers when it comes to managing their migraines.

Primarily made to help people who have damaged or lost their iris, this electronic contact lens is based on a series of concentric rings built on an LCD and run on ultra-low power so it can operate all day. The lens opens and closes its aperture to control the amount of light reaching the eye’s retina.

It is thought that it will be of help to those who have conditions such as aniridia (the absence of an iris), keratoconus (a thinning of the cornea which encases the eyeball), and those who suffer from light sensitivity – such as some chronic migraine sufferers.

The project’s lead researcher, Professor Andrés Vásquez Quintero, explained that; “Our smart contact lens can control the level of incoming light mimicking a human iris and offering a potential solution to vision correction […] This way, our approach can surpass current solutions to combat human eye iris deficiencies. Its beneficial optical effects will be further clinically validated and developed into a medical device.”

When the finished lens is ready, the researchers predict that it may be of benefit to around 20 million people worldwide – some of them migraine sufferers.

What Are The Different Migraine Types?

migraine types

Understanding migraines – what they are, what causes them, and what can be done about them – is hard enough at the best of times. It’s even harder though when there are so many variations of migraine which you might be experiencing and need specialised treatment for.

 

With that in mind, these are, in brief, some of the different types of migraine which exist.

 

Migraine without aura

This is a head pain which lasts between 4 and 72 hours when untreated, and which takes place usually on one side of your head. Other symptoms of this “traditional migraine” are; nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sensitivity to light, sounds and smells. 70-90% of people with migraines experience this form of migraine.

 

Migraine with aura

This involves the headache pain of a migraine without aura, but with the addition of extra symptoms which develop over a 5-20 minute period and last for less than an hour. These symptoms can include (but are not limited to); seeing coloured spots in your vision, flashing lights, numbness or tingling, dizziness, and nausea.

 

Chronic migraine

This is the term given to migraines which occur on more than fifteen days per month.

 

Menstrual migraine

As the name suggests, this migraine is linked to the menstrual cycle. This type of migraine is thought to be caused by a drop in oestrogen and the release of prostaglandin just prior to menstruation. This migraine can strike in the two days leading up to the start of a period, and in the first few days of the period itself.

 

Hemiplegic migraine

This is a migraine during which sufferers experience temporary weakness on one side of the body. This can be accompanied by vision problems, speech difficulties and confusion. It’s particularly stressful as this migraine has symptoms which are similar to those of a stroke.

 

Migraine with brainstem aura

This was previously known as basilar-type migraine. It involves an aura phase that precedes headache pain, and during which symptoms such as slurring of speech, pins and needles or loss of function in the arms/legs, ringing in the ears, and loss of balance can develop gradually.

 

Vestibular migraine

This variant of migraine involves feeling dizzy, having balance problems, or experiencing vertigo as the main migraine symptom – though other migraine symptoms such as headache and nausea can also occur with this type of migraine.