Migraine sufferers in Sussex face a summer of torture, with outings and holidays delayed or postponed because of an attack.

That can result in severe consequences for their relationships with family members.

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world.

It affects ten per cent of the UK population and is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.

Migraine is more than just a headache. It can be a debilitating condition which has a considerable impact on the quality of the life of sufferers and their families.

Attacks can be completely disabling, forcing the sufferer to abandon everyday activities for up to three days. Even in symptom-free periods, sufferers may live in fear of the next attack.

A survey by the Migraine Action Association (MAA) found the condition has a severe and adverse effect on family life, with 70 per cent of sufferers saying children and adults alike are left feeling frustrated and upset.

The effect migraine has on relationships cannot be underestimated, according to MAA director Ann Taylor.

"Migraine is a complex condition affecting more than six million people in the UK," she said.

"It can place tremendous strain on personal relationships so understanding and support from family and friends is invaluable to the migraine sufferer."

Dr Andrew Dowson, director of headache services at King's College Hospital in London, said: "Migraine can skip a generation or it may not have been diagnosed but family members will remember creeping around the house when grandma had one of her sick headaches.

"However, there are many effective treatments now and sufferers should consult their GP to confirm diagnosis and discuss treatments."

Migraine Awareness Week runs from September 1-7 and aims to help sufferers and their families cope.

A leaflet called Is It Part Of Your Family? will be at GP's surgeries, health centres, libraries and hospitals.

It explains the unpredictabilty of migraine, gives information on managing the condition and has useful tips to enable others to support the sufferer.

The symptoms, frequency and length of attacks can affect individuals in different ways.

Symptoms can include a throbbing headache, often only on one side of the head; visual disturbances such as flashing lights, blind spots and zig-zag patterns; nausea; vomiting; and sensitivity to light, noise and smells.

Although the headache is the most obvious event during a migraine, some people start to feel strange a day or so before the attack.

These strange feelings, known as the prodrome, are the first signs of the attack and can include cravings for certain foods, excitability, hyperactivity, tiredness, yawning or mood changes.

Migraines can last up to 72 hours and then the sufferers are usually symptom-free between attacks.

The condition is believed to be caused by the release of a chemical called serotonin or 5HT into the bloodstream from its storage sites in the body, resulting in changes in the neurotransmitters and blood vessels in the brain.

Exactly what causes this to happen is still a subject for research. However, certain factors have been identified which can start attacks in susceptible people, These include stress, lack of food or infrequent meals, caffeine and tyramine, foods containing monosodium glutamate and specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits and cheese.

Alcohol, especially red wine, overtiredness, changes in sleep patterns, extreme emotions and physical activity can also trigger an attack.

Loud noise; bright or flickering lights; strong perfumes; hot, stuffy atmospheres; VDUs; and extreme heat or cold are also known to cause problems.

Migraine triggers occur in combinations peculiar to each individual. For most people, there is not just one thing but a combination of factors.

Everyone can suffer from migraine but in some people, most probably because of a genetic predisposition, the threshold at which attacks occur is lower.

For more details, call the association on 01536 461333 or visit www.migraine.org.uk