Dr Johnathan Chan Consultant Neurologist and Dementia Specialist

Headaches and Migraines

Most people will experience occasional headaches from time to time which are not dangerous even if they are uncomfortable. Occasionally, a headache can be a symptom of a more worrying condition such as meningitis, cerebral haemorrhage, or a brain tumour. Although such causes for headaches are uncommon, anyone who is suffering from new-onset headaches should have a neurological assessment to exclude a serious cause for the headache.


More commonly seen are people who suffer from frequent headaches that can at times be excruciating even if the headaches are benign. Having chronic headaches or recurrent headaches can be disabling and the impact that this might have on your quality of life is often underappreciated by others who are not also suffering from it. In this situation, it would be helpful for you to seek specialist neurological advice for the treatment of your headaches, especially if your headaches are not responding to treatment with painkillers bought over-the-counter or prescribed by your General Practitioner.


Migraine is by far the commonest cause of episodic, recurrent or chronic headaches. People vary in the degree to which they might be prone to suffer from migraines but anyone has the potential to develop a tendency to migraines at any time in his or her life. It is also a common misconception that a migraine is just a headache. In actual fact, migraine is a complex neurological condition that can, in some people, cause a wide variety of neurological symptoms including the experience of abnormal sensations in various parts of the body, visual disturbances, dizziness, problems with balance, memory difficulties, and neck pain and stiffness. Less commonly, there are even migraine sufferers who experience these neurological symptoms from time to time but who do not suffer from regular headaches. This is because migraine is understood to be a condition that is caused by a destabilisation of the way in which your brain normally processes sensory information. As a result, your brain can begin to generate abnormal sensory experiences which you then experience as symptoms. It is therefore easy to understand why migraine can also develop after you have sustained a head injury, even if there has been no direct injury to the brain tissue.


Chronic migraines can often be successfully treated using a systematic approach with the help of a personalised treatment plan customised to your individual needs. This treatment plan should begin by helping you to understand the reasons behind why you might be developing migraines. It is also important to address any potential lifestyle factors you might have that might be making your condition worse.  If it is also felt that you might benefit from a range of medications known as migraine preventative treatment, this can then be further explained and recommended to you.