University and Migraine

Tania shares her tips on how to make the best of University with migraine

Going to university can be a daunting experience for anyone. When you suffer from migraine there are often even more concerns and things that need to be considered and planned for. To help make your time at university the best they can be, Tania shares with us her tips for attending university with migraine.

Disabled Student's Allowance (DSA)
If you're attending university as a migraine sufferer, you may be entitled to disabled student's allowance. This is funding for specialist equipment to assist you on your course. Whether it be dictation software, a dictaphone for lectures, or a combination of several different pieces of equipment, the DSA are the people to speak to. I received several pieces of equipment, including a laptop, printer, dictaphone and coloured lamp.

Student Services
If your university doesn’t know you suffer from migraine, they can't help you. So making contact with student services can be really beneficial. You may be entitled to extra time in exams, extensions on coursework and several other things, depending on how frequent your migraines are and how they affects you.

University Doctor's Surgery
Even if your condition is stable, you never know when things will change. Making contact with the university's doctor’s surgery when things are stable will make it easier if things start to go downhill or you have to change your medications. For some people, regular check-ins may be beneficial. My migraine consultant wanted me to have regular check-ins with the university nurse, but unfortunately they weren't co-operative with this. If they had been, the side effects I experienced when I had to change medication, as well as the deterioration in my basilar type and hemiplegic migraine may have been identified and solved sooner.

One of the most important things will be how far the halls are from your university buildings. If you’re hit by a migraine while at uni, will you be able to get home quickly?

Consider Your Living Arrangements Carefully
Most universities have halls of residence that are available to all first year students. There are several things to consider with accommodation, which will vary depending on how your migraine affects you. One of the most important will be how far the halls are from your university buildings. If you’re hit by a migraine while at uni, will you be able to get home quickly?

In terms of the rooms themselves, you may have specific requirements or need adaptations. If lighting is an issue, like it is with me you may want to find out what lighting the halls of residence use. Mine had fluorescent lighting, which is problematic for me. So we bought several lamps and lit my room with those, so I didn't have to turn the fluorescents on. Whatever your room requirements are, it’s important to speak to the halls of residence to get the things you need put in place.

It's also worth being aware that many universities will offer halls of residence to non-first year students, if they have a medical need for them.

Should I Tell People?
Whether you disclose your condition to your peers is entirely up to you, but it's important to think carefully about this decision. Telling your peers about your migraines may in part, depend on how migraine affects you. I lose consciousness with my basilar type migraine, therefore I chose to tell the people in my flat about my condition early on. I didn't want my new friends to be scared if and when I lost consciousness. Telling them that this might happen, and what to do if it did, was as much about their safety as it was mine.

There are pros and cons to telling or not telling people about your migraines. If you may need medical assistance, it can be helpful to let your new friends know in advance. However, knowing that you have a chronic illness may affect the way some people interact with you. In my experience this is a small minority of people. If you don't tell people, you won't risk being seen as 'different' but you run the risk of scaring people and them not knowing what to do if you become ill.

Inform the University about your migraine from the start, by taking a letter from your doctor telling them that you suffer from migraine, can get you extra support particularly during exams. You can ask for extra time during exams and also by the invigilators being made aware in advance that there may be a problem during exams, the Exam Board can be informed if there is a problem that it was a pre-existing condition and given the evidence.

How Are You Going To Tell People?
Disclosing your migraines can be a difficult conversation to have with people you've only just met. So it can be helpful to plan what you want to say beforehand. Do you want it to be in an informal environment so you can drop into the conversation that you're chronically ill and allow others to ask questions to facilitate the conversation? Or, do you want to be specific about telling people what to do in an emergency? If it's the latter, it’s probably better to avoid having the conversation in a noisy bar or club. Instead, opt for a quiet venue like your kitchen or common area in the halls of residence.

When I started uni, we went out for a 'getting to know each other' drink at a quiet pub. During this, I dropped into the conversation that I suffer from migraine. My flat mates asked me questions, including what they should do if I were to loose consciousness. It was a very relaxed conversation. When I subsequently lost consciousness, my friends were calm, because they knew what to do to help.

You can find out more about my personal experience attending university as a migraineur on my YouTube channel:

or help on supporting young people with migraine contact Migraine Action on 08456 011 033 or email



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