What are migraines?
Migraines are recurrent headaches which may be accompanied or preceded by other symptoms (called aura) such as nausea, visual disturbance and limb weakness. Migraines are common, affect women more than men and may have certain triggers for example hormones, food, medication or environmental factors. Various medication may alleviate symptoms or try and reduce frequency of attacks.
Can I dive if I suffer from migraines?
There is no evidence to suggest that diving will increase the frequency or intensity of migraines. It is not advisable to dive whilst experiencing a migraine as any neurological symptoms such as visual loss would put you and your buddy at increased risk when diving.
Some migraine symptoms such as nausea and paralysis may mimic the symptoms of decompression illness and cause confusion after the dive as to their cause.
Lastly, some medications for migraine may make you feel drowsy and you should not dive if this happens. Beta blockers, such as propranolol, are occasionally used for migraines. These drugs can impair cardiovascular performance and cause other side effects which may be incompatible with diving.
If you suffer from migraines ensure that you disclose this on your self-declaration form so your diving instructor and doctor can discuss the risks with you.
Migraines and Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or ‘hole in the heart’)
It is thought that individuals who suffer migraines with aura are more likely to have a PFO than the rest of the population but this is thought to be around 50% of people affected. So, you can have a PFO but not get migraine with aura and you could get migraine, but have a normal heart. Migraine without aura is not associated with PFO.
When signing an individual with migraines fit to dive the doctor will often enquire about the nature of your migraines. It is then at their discretion as to whether they recommend you have a PFO check or restrict your diving.
An individual who has had decompression illness and suffers with migraine with aura should consider testing for a PFO.