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Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions about Migraine Australia or migraine? Check here to see if we already have an answer for you. 

Please note this list is not yet complete. If you have another question or suggestion for what should on this page, please email [email protected]

Who is Migraine Australia

Migraine Australia is a national patient advocacy body and registered health promotion charity. We were founded by, and will always be led by, people who have a lived experience of migraine. We advocate and work for better management of migraine, better support for people who live with it and their families, and a better understanding of migraine throughout the community. You can see the details of our current leadership team here

Migraine Australia is primarily funded by membership fees and donations from people like you. Make a donation here. 

From time to time we will get grants to do certain projects. We have recently been awarded a grant from the Federal Department of Health to produce migraine awareness materials for patients. 

There are many different types of headache and you will need the help of a doctor for accurate diagnosis. However, typically the headache associated with migraine is on one side of the head, is a moderate to severe pain, and pulsates or throbs. To be diagnosed with migraine you also have to have other symptoms - such as sensitivity to light, noise or smell, or nausea and vomiting associated with your headaches - and you have to have at least three attacks to confirm it is migraine. 

All migraine is chronic, but there is a specific diagnosis of Chronic Migraine which is more than 15 headache days a month, 8 of which are migraine days. You may hear the phrase 'transformed' migraine, which refers to when someone with an episodic presentation of migraine attacks - less than 15 headache days a month - gets worse and has more frequent attacks, becoming Chronic Migraine. This happens to about 3% of the migraine population every year.

It is believed that people with migraine spiral into more frequent headaches and migraine attacks because of a process called Central Sensitisation. Frequent pain changes how the  brain works, resulting in more pain being experiences with less provoking stimuli. The brain becomes more sensitive to pain and therefore you feel more severe pain and more often. The more frequent the attacks, the more this central pain sensitisation becomes persistent and difficult to treat. 

The other factor is called medication overuse headache. This is a complication of migraine where frequent use of medications creates more headache. Again, the more medication you take, the more headache you get. 

No. Migraine is a primary disorder - it is not caused by something else. You must have the relevant variations in your genes to have migraine. However, migraine has many comorbidities and poor health in other areas can make your migraine attacks worse. 

There are a range of medications and other therapies that can be used to prevent migraine attacks. Discuss with your doctor if they are right for you, but generally, they should be considered if you are having more than 4 migraine attacks per month. If less than 4 attacks a month, you should be able to manage things with abortive medications like triptans and acute medications that treat symptoms like pain killers.   

Yes. Migraine is caused by variations to the genes that relate to how ions are processed in the brain. So far 44 different loci have been identified as being related to migraine. Some people have a single gene variation, but most people have a combination of gene variations. It is strongly hereditary (if you have migraine there's a 50% chance your child will too), but because it is caused by a combination of genes in most people, you can still get it if your parents don't have it by getting some from mum, and some from dad. These genetic differences generally make the ions go too fast in a migraine brain, and that makes the migraine brain hyper-reactive to sensory inputs and other stimuli. 

Learn more about migraine genetics

Yes. The youngest presentation of migraine is believed to be colic - when babies cry excessively for no apparent reason. Migraine attacks involving headache have been recorded as young as 18 months old. In children aged between 5 and 10, the most common presentation of migraine is abdominal migraine, including vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation. Children with migraine may also get car sick easily. Half of all kids with migraine have their first headache attack before the age of 12. In the teenage years migraine becomes much more aggressive and can be debilitating thanks to the changes in hormones. From about the age of 17 onwards, boys tend to stabilise or improve, while girls usually continue and progressively worsen until their 50s.