Migrane Students' Guide for Academics

What is a migrane?

Migraine is a neurological disorder related to blood flow and nerves around the head. Migraines usually result in acute pain in the back of the neck and head, extending to the eyes and forehead. Attacks can last from 2 - 72 hours. Symptoms can include aura (e.g. blinking light), vision impairment, numbness in limbs, face, tongue and feet, together with nausea and vomiting.

Migraine sufferers have difficulty tolerating light and sound and when having an attack find it necessary to lie down and rest in a calm and quiet environment. Usually there is no complete cure but medication can help reduce the frequency and severity or attacks.

What causes migraine?

There are various triggers that can cause migraine, including:

  • Stress.
  • Sleeping disorders and tiredness.
  • Changes in weather conditions or temperature.
  • Food.
  • Relaxing after a prolonged period of concentration.
  • Anger.

I cannot complete the activities in the timeframe that I have planned, even if I allow extra time for my sickness.

How migraines affect my studies

  • Migraines affect my vision and my learning ability.
  • The next day after an attack I can maybe read 1 page of text, but not more. It then gradually improves in the following days.
  • Even if I am not having an attack I can only read 2 articles a day.
  • I have difficulty tolerating the brightness of the computer screen and it feels like am surrounded by bright flashing lights like in a photo studio. The words seem to be mixing with each other and so I cannot read more than a few words without blinking and refocussing. I have to concentrate just on a few words like I am on a tightrope.
  • Originally I used to wear sunglasses when viewing the computer screen and then I discovered that I could reduce the brightness of the computer screen and change the background of Word and PDF documents to grey. This reduces the flashing effect. If I have difficulties viewing a Powerpoint presentation then I change the background.
  • If web pages are completely white then I have to wear sunglasses. I have tried changing the background on my browser to grey but the color combination changes from site to site and if the text is also grey then I can't read it. I can't tolerate blinking objects rapidly changing advertising.
  • In the classroom sometimes I can't read the presentation slides properly if they have a white or bright background and so I have to wear sunglasses in class. At the beginning it was embarrassing but now I am used to it because I do not have a choice.
  • Migraine and learning difficulties can be related. For example, a student with migraine may suffer from insomnia. This in turn can result in concentration and memory difficulties, which affect learning.
  • Treatments for migraine, such as anti-depression medication, can also have affects on memory, motivation and concentration levels.
  • I cannot complete the activities in the timeframe that I have planned, even if I allow extra time for my sickness.
  • I have difficulties co-ordinating activities. I might be able to make a lot of notes but it is difficult to co-ordinate them.
  • I cannot work a whole day continuously.
  • I am in a continuous state of anxiety that I might have a new attack at any moment that will affect my planning.
  • Due to not being able to complete tasks within the due date and asking for extension after extension, I feel embarrassed that I can't complete the task.
  • Teaching staff are very helpful but it is still very embarrassing to not complete the task within the due date.
  • I am always fighting with myself and sometimes I feel as though the tension is too much and I should stop studying altogether.
  • I find it difficult to give time to my family. That also hurts me and I feel guilty.

Lecture theatre with bright white screen
"In the classroom sometimes I can't read the presentation slides properly if they have a white or bright background and so I have to wear sunglasses in class. At the beginning it was embarrassing but now I am used to it because I do not have a choice."

Even after the initial attack passed I still feel as though something heavy is moving inside the head.

How migraines affects me

During an attack

  • I cannot do anything except rest or sleep.
  • I cannot read.
  • I cannot do any physical or mental work.
  • I have to switch off the lights and rest.
  • I feel totally disabled.
  • Within an hour I feel as though I have been sick for a week and that it will take a long time to be cured.

Post attack symptoms

  • Even after the initial attack passed I still feel as though something heavy is moving inside the head. That will last for a day or I may have multiple attacks over consecutive days.
  • If the attack is just for 1 day then the vision impairment is much less and it remains for 2 or 3 days.
  • Medication can reduce the intensity of the attacks, i.e. dull the pain, but it doesn't improve my physical situation.
  • I still can't tolerate light for 2 -3 days post attack.
  • My vision problems take 2-3 days to subside.

About this Guide

This Guide has been written by University of Melbourne students.

It is intended to provide academics with a student perspective on how their condition affects their studies at the University.

Contact Us

For assistance or to report accessibility problems please contact:

Andrew Normand
Web Accessibility Lead
Email: anormand@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 9035 4867