Byline: ANASTASIA STEPHENS
BEVERLEY NELSON is one of thousands of children in Britain who suffer from migraine. Starting when she was only two, the attacks consisted of bouts of severe vomiting and mild head pain.
Luckily, the nine-year-old's condition has been diagnosed and she can take medication and precautions to prevent attacks. Yet recent research reveals there may be many children whose suffering remains undiagnosed.
At least 250,000 British children aged seven to 15 are affected by migraine. Yet a survey by Psizer Consumer Healthcare has shown that only one in eight parents realises migraine can occur in children under 12.
The condition is associated with headaches, visual and intestinal disturbances and sensitivity to light. In adults, headaches usually dominate symptoms. But in children, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting predominate, so migraine is not always recognised, says Ann Rush, director of The Migraine Trust.
The cause of Beverley's sickness eluded her parents and doctors for six years. At first, she fell sick every Christmas and birthday. Each time, she would vomit for 15 to 20 minutes, lie down and recover within minutes. By the age of seven, the frequency of the attacks had increased to about once every three months.
`My husband and I were desperately worried. Beverley looked like she was fading away. Each time she had an attack I was in tears,' says her mother, Elaine, of Romford, Essex.
`By the time she was eight, she would be sick every other week for periods ranging from 15 minutes to 24 hours. She was taking weeks off school, was desperately thin and had stopped growing because she was not getting enough nutrition.
`In the end, we managed to take her to our GP during an attack. Alarmed by how underweight she was, he referred her to hospital where tests confirmed she suffered from migraine.'
The cause of migraine is not known but it is thought to be related to interactions between blood vessels, neurones and the release of chemical transmitters in the brain. Blood vessels in the brain suddenly narrow causing a throbbing headache. The resultant pressure causes them to dilate, but they only resume their normal size again during rest or sleep.
Some doctors hold the change in neurological function to be the cause, others the blood vessels. Some believe it is neither, ascribing it to another unknown cause,' says Dr David Symon, paediatrician at Hartlepool General Hospital.
One theory is that migraines are caused by missing brainwaves. By replacing these, it is claimed migraine could be cured. Trials at the Better Health Clinic, Chester, are being conducted on volunteers to test the theory using a device called Empulse. …