According to The Migraine Trust, there are approximately 190,000 migraine attacks in the UK every day. Now, a new device that sends magnetic impulses to the brain could help combat the condition, and has been recommended as a treatment by the UK's National Institute for Health Care and Excellence.
There are two types of the condition - migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura means the condition is accompanied by visual disturbances, including blind spots, tunnel vision and even temporary blindness. Sufferers can also experience numbness or tingling, dizziness, weakness or vertigo.
What exactly causes a migraine is unknown, but health professionals say the condition may be triggered by a series of factors, including the environment, stress, alcohol, lack of food, lack of sleep, and - in women - hormonal changes.
Migraine symptoms usually last between 4 and 72 hours, meaning the condition may impact a person's family, work or social lives.
Now, the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has revealed the results of a series of clinical trials involving a portable handheld device, which researchers say could "transform lives" of migraine sufferers.
The device works by sending transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - brief magenetic impulses - to the brain at the press of a button.
TMS device shows positive results in clinical trials
In one study of 164 migraine sufferers, the patients were treated with a single TMS using the device, for a minimum of one migraine attack with aura.
By sending magnetic impulses to the brain, the new device helps ease pain in migraine sufferers.
Researchers found that 2 hours after the onset of the migraines, 39% of patients were free of pain. At 24 hours, 29% were pain free, while 27% were pain free at 48 hours.
Results of another study revealed that approximately 75% of patients who received repetitive treatment with the device demonstrated a reduction in the frequency of headaches, and this was evident even in individuals with chronic migraine.
One patient, who had suffered headaches at least every other day, notes that the device has enabled her to go up to 10 days without experiencing a headache and has reduced her intake of painkillers.
Based on these results, NICE have issued recommendations stating that the device may be used as a treatment option for patients who suffer migraines.
These recommendations come shortly after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a similar device - called the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Simulator - for the treatment of migraines at the end of last year.
Researchers say the device may be useful for patients who find current treatment methods, such as painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines, unsuitable. Pregnant women fall into this category, as they are advised to limit their medicinal use for migraines.
Commenting on the recommendations, Dr. Fayyaz Ahmed, a consultant Neurologist and a trustee of UK charity The Migraine Trust, says:
"This is a breakthrough treatment for those who cannot tolerate or do not respond to current treatment, and opens the door for a new era in treating migraine headaches.
We welcome NICE guidance and very much hope this treatment is made available to those in need."
According to The Migraine Trust, UK residents can try the device by asking their doctor for a referral to a specialist migraine and headache clinic.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study detailing the discovery of several genetic regions in the brain that may be responsible for triggering migraine attacks.
Written by Honor Whiteman