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Published: 1 September 2021

Person holding their head

A migraine is a common condition which many people think of as just a headache.  

The reality is much more intense than that and can have a serious impact on your health.  

So, why are we talking about migraines? Did you know that under the Equality Act 2010, they are considered a disabling condition?  

What this means for you as a student at the University of Sunderland in London is you could get Disability Support Allowance (DSA) if you suffer from them.  

DSA is essentially financial aid given to students by the government to make sure that no one is held back by their conditions.  

What are they?  

Migraines are an extreme form of headache caused by the body’s nervous system (making it a ‘neurological’ condition).   

They typically last between several hours and a few days and are more common in women than men.  

About 1 in 5 women suffer from migraines compared to 1 in every 15 men. The reason for that is the balance of hormones found more typically in women.   

Higher levels of progesterone and oestrogen are thought to increase your risk of migraines, which means they are most common during pregnancy and periods.   

Related to this is a generally lower number of sufferers among women who have gone through menopause.  

Other risk factors include having a family history of migraines and age. Although you can develop them at any time, you are most likely to experience the condition during your 30s.  

What actually happens?   

A migraine starts with the release of chemicals in your brain and can be broken down into four stages:  

  1. 1) Prodromal state: You’ll feel tired and yawn a lot. You might notice a craving for chocolate and sugar.  
  2. 2) Aura phase: This is slightly less common but can include visual changes like bright lights, noticing odd smells and difficulty moving parts of your body.  
  3. 3) Headache phase: The most known part of a migraine. Other than the pain, you’ll also have trouble thinking, vomiting, a painful stomach and dizziness that can last up to three days.  
  4. 4) Postdromal phase: The final part feels like a bad hangover including low energy, tiredness and poor concentration.  


Although all of this sounds very unpleasant, it’s important to remember that there are ways to manage the condition.  

Understanding migraines and how they affect you as an individual is a vital first step. It’ll give you the chance to make changes to your routine that can help.  

There are some basic treatments that take the edge off the worst of the feelings. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, as well as lying down in a dark room, go a long way, for example.  

If you need something stronger, it’s worth talking to your doctor about Sumatriptan, Botox therapy, antibody injections, beta-blockers and anti-epileptic drugs.  

But please do not take anything until you’ve consulted your GP.  

Migraines are manageable and there is support available to make sure they won’t affect your experience as a student.   

Get in touch with your GP to find out more information.   

Your Health and Wellbeing team are always here if you should need further support or information.  

Book your appointments through Compass, email the team at, or call on 0207 531 7343.

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