By Denise Dechow, MD
June is Migraine Awareness month so let’s start with the basics.
Migraine headaches are a specific neurologic headache that occur in both adults and children characterized by a severe, throbbing one-sided headache. The headache progresses over minutes to hours, worsens with physical activity and last several hours or more. The headache is accompanied by other symptoms including nausea and/or vomiting, sensitivity to light, and sensitivity to sound.
Some people also get symptoms of an aura prior to the onset of the headache..The most common migraine auras are visual auras described as flashing lights, bright spots, or zig-zag lines. People can often lose part of their vision. Another common symptoms of an aura is numbness and tingling of the lips, lower face, and fingers. While this can be scary, the good news is that the aura typically lasts only a few minutes to an hour and then goes away.
Migraines affect 1 billion people worldwide and are more common in women than in men. Often migraine headaches run in families and can start in childhood or teenage years.
Common migraine triggers include:
- Hormonal changes(premenstrual or menstrual)
- Skipping meals or not eating or drinking enough
- Changes in the weather/barometric pressure changes
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Bright or flashing lights or strong smells or chemicals
- Certain drinks or foods such as wine, aged cheeses, artificial sweeteners and nitrites(food preservative), caffeine
- Medication overuse(using too many headache medicines)
Treatment of the acute migraine include over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen acetaminophen) and combination medications(acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine). If the over-the-counter medications are not effective, your healthcare provider can also prescribe migraine specific medications called triptans as well as anti-nausea medications if needed. Early treatment of the acute migraine attack increases the likelihood of the migraine going away. If migraines become too frequent, there are preventative medications and vitamin supplements that have been shown to be helpful in reducing the number of migraine attacks. There are also some complementary or alternative remedies such as acupuncture that have been found to be helpful for some people with migraines.
Migraine headaches can be a debilitating condition, but the good news is that there are many things that can be done to help prevent migraines as well as treat them effectively. If you think you may be suffering from migraines or having trouble controlling your migraines, come see us at Mosaic Comprehensive Care and learn more about treatment options.