If you’ve ever had a migraine you know how debilitating it can be. Throbbing, pulsing pain; nausea and vomiting; sensitivity to light…
The good news: migraines are rarely dangerous or a symptom of another underlying illness. The not-so-good news: “Unlike with a regular headache, migraine symptoms can be so severe they keep you from doing the activities you would normally participate in, such as going to work, school, or social activities,” said Holly Yancy, DO, a neurologist who specializes in headache neurology with Banner – University Medicine Neurosciences Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Migraine symptoms can include throbbing pain, sometimes on one side of the head but often on both sides, that worsens with movement and activity,” said Dr. Yancy, “and migraines can also cause nausea and vomiting.” Dr. Yancy noted other symptoms may include sensitivity to light, sounds or smells, and that some sufferers also experience “aura” in the form of visual changes, numbness or tingling, or difficulty with language.
Unlike with regular headaches, which can usually be treated with an over-the-counter pain medication, treatment for migraine is often more complex. While you may only need a “rescue medication” for pain relief, “if you have very frequent or severe disabling migraines you could benefit from preventive treatment, to decrease your migraine frequency and severity,” said Dr. Yancy. Even then, Dr. Yancy noted, you still may need another medication to treat the symptoms when a migraine occurs.
Migraines are genetic and difficult to prevent, according to Dr. Yancy, but you may benefit from lifestyle adjustments that could help decrease the frequency of your migraines. “Migraine brains prefer regularity – regular meals, regular sleep, regular exercise,” said Dr. Yancy. “I also encourage my patients to learn stress reduction techniques, which are almost always beneficial, and to try to identify triggers that might be avoidable, such as particular foods or drinks."
For migraine sufferers, there is hope. “Thanks to ongoing research, options for migraine prevention and treatment continue to evolve,” said Dr. Yancy. Three monthly injectable medications for migraine prevention have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are available now. Additionally, last December the FDA also approved a new type of abortive treatment that should be available soon.
If you suffer from headaches or migraines and want to learn more about your treatment options, schedule an appointment with one of Banner Health’s expert neurologists.