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Understanding Migraine: A Growing Health Concern in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the prevalence of migraines, a form of headache marked by intense throbbing or pulsating feelings, is on the rise. Migraines can have a considerable negative effect on a person's productivity and daily life, placing a heavy socioeconomic burden on the sufferer. This blog post seeks to clarify this common yet frequently misunderstood medical condition. 

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is more than just a headache. It is a complicated neurological disorder that can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as severe and incapacitating headaches, auras (visual distortions), nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. The pain from migraines can be so intense that it interferes with daily tasks and frequently lasts for hours or even days. 

Symptoms of Migraines

Migraines typically progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome. Not everyone who has migraines experiences all these stages. 

Prodrome Stage

Subtle changes, such as constipation, mood swings, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination, and frequent yawning, can indicate an impending migraine one or two days before it occurs. 

Aura Stage

Auras are typically visual disruptions, such as perceiving blind areas, zigzag lines, or light flashes. Some people may have speech difficulties or sensory issues. About one-third of migraine patients experience this stage. 

Attack Stage

This is when the actual migraine pain occurs. A migraine can linger for up to 72 hours if left untreated. Symptoms during this time may include: discomfort on one or both sides of their heads, pain that is pulsating or throbbing, sensitivity to light, sounds, and occasionally scents, nausea and vomiting, impaired vision, or lightheadedness.. 

Postdrome Stage

People may feel exhausted or wiped out after a migraine attack, however some claim to feel mildly euphoric. 

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Triggers and Risk Factors

Finding your unique migraine triggers might be a key first step in managing your condition because they can vary greatly from person to person. Stress, hormonal changes, specific foods and beverages, altered sleep patterns, and even alterations in the weather or barometric pressure are examples of common triggers.   

A family history of migraines, advanced age, sex (women are more likely to get migraines), and hormonal fluctuations are all risk factors for developing migraines. Additionally, migraines are more common in those who have certain medical diseases, such as epilepsy, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and depression. 

Treatment for Migraines

Migraine treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing future attacks. Doctors might recommend different types of treatment if one doesn't work. 

Pain-Relieving Medications

These medications, also referred to as acute or abortive treatment, are administered during migraine attacks and are intended to stop symptoms. These include painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen, triptans (drugs that block pain pathways in the brain), ergots (less effective than triptans but a more affordable alternative), and anti-nausea drugs. 

Preventive Medications

To reduce the severity or frequency of migraines, several kinds of medications are frequently taken daily. Antidepressants, anti-seizure meds, cardiovascular pharmaceuticals, and Botox are examples of preventive medication classes. 

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

The incidence, length, and intensity of migraines can be decreased by regular, moderate aerobic exercise. Maintaining regular eating and sleeping schedules, being hydrated, and reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption can all be beneficial. 

Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture, biofeedback (a relaxation technique), cognitive behavioral therapy, herbs, vitamins, and minerals are some of the methods individuals use to treat migraines. 

It's vital to explore the potential advantages, risks, and side effects with a healthcare professional before beginning any sort of treatment. For migraine sufferers, the appropriate therapy, along with self-care strategies and lifestyle changes, can make a significant difference. 

Impact on Daily Life and Work Productivity in Hong Kong 

Migraines significantly affect daily living and workplace productivity in Hong Kong. Decreased productivity and repeated absences from work are frequently caused by the crippling pain and its associated symptoms. In addition, migraine attacks can be unpredictable, making it difficult to keep a regular work schedule.   

The Need for Greater Awareness and Support in Hong Kong  

Although migraines are common and have a significant impact in Hong Kong, little is known about and understood about this condition. Many migraine sufferers keep their pain to themselves, frequently because they don't realise that their symptoms are indicative of a diagnosable and treatable ailment. Additionally, the stigma attached to migraines may discourage some people from getting treatment. Some people can worry about coming out as weak or dependable, especially in the setting of the workplace. So, a key step in reducing the impact of this ailment is raising public awareness of and acceptance of migraines.  

Additionally, healthcare professionals are essential. To offer the finest care possible, they must be knowledgeable on the most recent advancements in migraine research and treatment. Furthermore, employers should set up measures that help workers with migraines, such as flexible work schedules or a quiet, dark area for workers who are having an attack. 


In Hong Kong, migraines are a serious and developing health concern. This condition, which is characterised by incapacitating headaches that come and go, is not receiving the attention it merits. Increasing awareness among the general public and healthcare professionals is the first step in tackling this problem. In order to ensure early discovery and treatment, public awareness is essential. Greater awareness of the signs and causes of migraines can encourage sufferers to get help when necessary rather than viewing frequent headaches as a normal part of life. Those who do not experience migraines may be more sympathetic and understanding, which will help lessen the stigma attached to this ailment. 

Healthcare professionals play a crucial role as well. Medical personnel must maintain their knowledge of the newest advancements in migraine research and treatment. Effective migraine identification and diagnosis, as well as current guidance on treating triggers and symptoms, are essential medical skills. 

The workplaces themselves must contribute to the solution. Workplace policies should take migraine sufferers' unique requirements into account. Flexibility in work schedules and the provision of a comfortable setting for people having a migraine attack can greatly enhance these workers' quality of life and preserve overall productivity. Hong Kong's medical options are progessing, and new drugs are beginning to show promise. But it's crucial to keep in mind that no two people require the same type of treatment. One person's solution might not be suitable for another. Therefore, the best treatment usually involves a mix of medication, lifestyle changes, and avoiding recognised triggers. Finally, it's critical to stress that a thorough approach to migraines cannot exclusively focus on the physical element. It's important to note the psychological effects of having a persistent, unpleasant, and frequently unpredictable ailment. Counseling and psychological support therefore also provide value in management. 

In Hong Kong, migraines are a big problem, but they are not insurmountable. We can lessen the impact of this crippling ailment by raising awareness, enhancing treatment choices, and offering assistance to those affected. Let's collaborate to better understand migraines and the lives of those who suffer from them.  

Migraines aren't just ordinary headaches. They're a neurological condition characterised by intense, throbbing pain usually on one side of the head, and often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. If you're experiencing symptoms that might suggest a migraine, it's important to consult a healthcare professional. 

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    4. Wang, Y., Zhou, J., Fan, X., & Li, X. (2020). Burden of migraine in China, 1990–2017: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 21(1), 1-9. 

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Topics: Health & Wellness, General Practice / Family Medicine

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