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DR ELLIE CANNON: How can I ease this awful pain if I can’t get my migraine pills?

I have battled crippling migraines for many years and they are usually managed by Migraleve tablets. But my GP tells me there is a national shortage of the drugs. Are there any suitable alternatives?

It is estimated that about six million Britons regularly suffer migraines. Migraleve has been one of the most popular treatments for several years.

The drug comes in two versions – yellow and pink. The yellow tablets are taken at the start of the headache and contain a combination of two painkillers – codeine and paracetamol.

Pink ones also contain an extra anti-sickness ingredient, plus another compound that helps with the other symptoms of migraine.

Both forms of the drug are highly effective and many patients find they provide the relief they need. But since the summer of 2018, there has been a worsening shortage – I’ve seen many patients unable to access the medicine for more than a year.

It is estimated that about six million Britons regularly suffer migraines (stock image)

However, there are alternatives from your GP that are just as effective. These include commonly used drugs known as triptans, which come in the form of pills, nasal sprays and even wafers that melt on the tongue.

They need to be taken as soon as you feel a migraine coming on and may not work when taken during an aura – where patients also experience flashing lights, blind spots or tingling in the hands and face.

Anti-sickness drugs, such as prochlorperazine and metoclopramide, are also available on prescription and can help some patients. Topiramate, often given to treat epilepsy, can help too.

Otherwise, beta-blockers that are sometimes used to treat anxiety – such as propranolol – can be effective.

Over the past year I’ve noticed my left eyelid has started drooping. It’s not affecting my sight but my doctor says to just wait and see what happens. Should I be worried?

A drooping eyelid is commonly caused by a condition called ptosis. The muscle involved with opening the eyelid stops working effectively, leaving it partially shut all the time. It’s not only a cosmetic problem – it also interferes with vision, depending how much your eyelid opens. It can also cause uncomfortable eye strain and aching.

Ptosis can occur in later life simply due to ageing and a weakening of the muscles, or due to an injury. But there can also be other, serious causes, such as nerve diseases, a stroke or a tumour affecting the nerve or muscles of the eyelid.

If no underlying cause is found, surgery to correct ptosis is usually performed, particularly if vision is affected. During the operation, the muscle is corrected, making the eyelid function again. Far more commonly, drooping eyelids are caused not by nerve or muscle damage, but by excess skin of the upper eyelid.

The eyelid becomes more hooded, sagging with age or sun damage. It is considered a cosmetic issue and treated with an operation called blepharoplasty. However, this is generally not offered on the NHS unless vision is compromised.

Done privately, it can cost between £2,000 and £6,000.

Whatever the cause of a drooping eyelid, surgery is the only option. It is important for a doctor to confirm the cause, as the underlying problem could be serious.

Babs is right to lead fight on dementia 

I applaud Dame Barbara Windsor for taking a stand against the Government¿s shocking disregard for Alzheimer¿s patients

I applaud Dame Barbara Windsor for taking a stand against the Government’s shocking disregard for Alzheimer’s patients

I applaud Dame Barbara Windsor for taking a stand against the Government’s shocking disregard for Alzheimer’s patients.

The 82-year-old former EastEnders actress, pictured left, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, is set to march to Downing Street to deliver a petition calling for investment in social care – a lifeline for her and millions of others.

My heart sinks for my dementia patients. It is ludicrous that barely any care provisions are in place for sufferers of this cruel disease.

Instead, patients, many of whom live alone, must fund their own care.

I have seen desperate families forced to sell their homes, or else relatives forced to give up work and become carers themselves.

When social services do step in, staff are often too stretched to dedicate adequate time to patients. Some dash off after just ten minutes.

And the problem will only get worse – more than a million of us will have the disease by 2025.

I just hope that those at No 10 Downing Street are listening.

A serious outbreak of gender bias  

I’m not surprised that women suffer longer delays before they are diagnosed than men, as was revealed last week. Almost 500,000 British women endure 11 GP appointments before reaching a correct diagnosis, according to statistics collated by law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp. Only a third as many men experienced the same shocking delays.

Many doctors see conditions such as heart disease – one of the UK’s biggest killers – as ‘male issues’, so don’t suspect it in women.

Some female patients are fobbed off with a diagnosis of period pain or a ‘hormonal’ issue.

And women are far more likely to put on a front for the family, coping with painful symptoms alone for far too long.

We women need to be aware of the gender bias and not take no for an answer.

The latest drug shortage concerns the contraceptive Pill. Last week reports emerged of national shortages of commonly prescribed brands such as Loestrin and Cilest. 

My advice to those affected is NOT to go to your GP for answers. Instead, ask a pharmacist what other types of pill are available, then go to your GP to get an alternative prescription. Luckily, there are many different brands. 


Email or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT. Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies. 

If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.