Presented by Jayashri Srinivasan, MD, PhD, FRCP
National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month in June is intended to raise awareness of the significant impact of migraines and the wide range of successful treatments that are available. There are many treatment options for migraines and as a neurologist I have seen many patients who have responded well to these therapeutic options with significant improvement in their quality of life.
If your headaches are severe and you haven’t yet sought treatment, or if your current treatment isn’t working well, now is the time to explore further options. Although we do not fully understand all the facets of migraines, we have more prevention and treatment possibilities today than ever before.
Migraines are severe headaches that cause a throbbing or pulsing pain, often on one side of the head. Other symptoms include increased sensitivity to light, noise and odors, as well as nausea and vomiting. Untreated migraines could last from several hours to several days.
Migraines affect about 12 percent of Americans and are three times more common in women than in men. The headache is caused by the activation of nerve fibers within the walls of blood vessels in the brain. Why this happens is not fully understood, but it is thought there may be a genetic basis for the tendency to develop migraine headaches.
The key to successful treatment is to personalize the therapy plan for each individual. Prevention is especially important in patients with frequent headaches as migraines may impair the ability to function normally. Prevention options include prescription medications as well as avoiding personal triggers such as certain foods, dehydration, stress or lack of sleep. When migraine attacks occur, medication taken as soon as possible can help relieve symptoms. Drugs originally developed for epilepsy, depression or high blood pressure have been shown to be effective in treating migraines and can help prevent future attacks. Botulinum toxin A (Botox) has also been proven be very effective in prevention.
If you are experiencing severe headaches, seeking the right treatment can make a big difference.