GPs receive very limited training on migraine

Issue highlighted as part of Brain Awareness Week

Deborah Condon

March 13, 2023

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  • Migraine is a complex neurological condition that affects up to 600,000 people in Ireland, yet GPs only get four hours training in this area, the Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI) has said.

    According to the charity, as a result of this minimal training, many GPs are unaware that there are different types of migraine with different symptoms and effects.

    The MAI is highlighting this issue as part of Brain Awareness Week 2023, which runs from March 13-19. It said it is vital that both sufferers and healthcare professionals are aware of the different types of migraine.

    Most of those affected will experience migraine without aura. Common symptoms include; an intense throbbing headache, usually on one side, which becomes worse with movement; nausea/vomiting; sensitivity to light, noise and smell; neck and shoulder stiffness and blurred vision.

    Migraine with aura refers to neurological disturbances that occur before the headache, usually lasting 20-60 minutes. Around 20% of people with migraine experience aura. Symptoms include; blind spots; flashing lights; zig-zag patterns; pins and needles; slurring of speech; muscular weakness; loss of co-ordination and confusion.

    Some 1% will experience migraine aura with no headache. In other words, they will experience neurological disturbances, but not go on to develop the headache.

    Other forms of migraine are:

    -Hemiplegic migraine which is a rare form of migraine where the person experiences many common symptoms, but may also suffer from temporary numbness, weakness or even paralysis (hemiplegia). As a result of this type of migraine, one side of the face can fall which looks like a stroke. The affected person can experience headache, visual disturbances, tingling in the extremities, speaking difficulties, confusion, brain fog, ataxia and/or fever.

    -Vestibular migraine is a disorder which creates coordination issues with the sensory information that is sent to the brain from the eyes, muscles, bones and vestibular organs inside the ears. Common symptoms include; severe dizziness; vertigo; head, eyes or body motion problems; diminished eye focus; tinnitus and muscle spasms in the upper spine.

    -Basilar migraine is a rare type of migraine that includes symptoms such as loss of balance, double vision, blurred vision, difficulty speaking and fainting. During the headache, some people lose consciousness.

    -Ophthalmoplegic migraine is an extremely rare type of migraine that occurs mainly in young people. In addition to headache, symptoms include pupil dilation, inability to move eye direction and eyelid drooping.

    MAI services include certified courses for GPs and other healthcare professionals. For more information, visit

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