Search icon


25th Nov 2021

Everything you need to know about managing your migraine


Brought to you by Novartis

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the world and there are more than half a million sufferers in Ireland.

It affects women more than men and the impact of migraine varies dramatically from person to person. Some people have migraine attacks relatively infrequently, perhaps a few times each year, while others experience headache and migraine symptoms on a daily or near daily basis.

Migraine sufferers often fall into one of two categories – Episodic migraine and chronic migraine. Episodic migraine is diagnosed if a patient has up to 14 headache days per month, and a patient is said to have chronic migraine if they have 15 or more headache days monthly, with eight of these having migraine symptoms, for more than three months.

Mother-of-two Gillian Rafferty (45) from Finglas, Dublin was a chronic migraine sufferer for many years. She has had regular headaches since her teenage years, like many migraine sufferers. Many teenagers fail to recognise their first few migraine attacks, and among the undiagnosed, there is also a tendency to downplay the effect of regular migraine on their well-being or attribute it to factors such as dehydration or fatigue.

However for Gillian, it was impossible to ignore the severity of the headaches.

“I got headaches a lot as a teenager, but they kept getting worse and worse. When I was growing up, there wasn’t access to the type of treatment or care that is available now and there wasn’t a family history of migraine,” she explains.

“The headaches became more and more frequent and the severity of the attacks got worse as the years went by, but it was only when I was in my 20s that I was finally diagnosed as a chronic migraine sufferer,” Gillian adds.

With considerable advances made in managing, treating and supporting migraine sufferers, Esther Tomkins, Headache/Migraine Nurse Specialist at the Migraine Clinic, Beaumont Hospital recommends migraine sufferers get a quick diagnosis.

“Irrespective of whether it’s mild or severe, make sure that your first port of call is your GP, who can refer you on to a migraine specialist. It’s very important that diagnosis happens in a timely fashion so that you are connected to the most appropriate resources and receive the right approach to treat and manage your migraine,” advises Esther.

Esther adds that keeping a headache diary is an effective way for patients to uncover patterns specific to their individual biology. It’s a simple measure that allows people to identify their triggers, record their attacks and then share this information with the clinician who can use it to develop a tailored treatment and management plan to minimise the frequency and severity of attacks.

chronic migraine

Identifying triggers is important for sufferers: migraine attacks are often related to skipping meals, female hormones, being over-tired or related to stress, or even positive life events like weddings and birthday parties. This was the case for Gillian, as she learned that positive life experiences such as family holidays triggered attacks just as much as stress-related events.

As a chronic migraine sufferer for almost 20 years, Gillian couldn’t work and her social life was curtailed, but she didn’t give up. She availed of care at a specialist headache centre and received a tailored treatment plan that has helped her to manage her migraine.

“My condition was holding me back, but I didn’t give up. I got excellent specialist care and a treatment plan that was designed specifically for my condition. I’m not 100% there yet, but the support I’ve received means that I am able to manage my migraine. It has made a huge change in my life and I’m a different person now.”

Esther adds that education, information and personalised treatment plans all collectively lead to a reduction in migraine severity and frequency. This in turn can improve associated conditions such as stress, anxiety and low mood.

chronic migraine

Gillian now enjoys a vastly improved quality of life: she is working part-time and spends far more quality time than before with her family and friends. She attributes this hugely positive change to the specialist treatment plan she received and she urges other chronic migraine sufferers to do the same.

“My message to anyone reading this who is suffering from chronic migraine is don’t give up hope, there is help out there. Keep a migraine diary, get in contact with your GP and don’t suffer in silence anymore.”

For more information on managing your migraine, please visit:

This article is supported by Novartis Ireland. This healthcare professional and patient have been paid for their contribution.

Brought to you by Novartis