Facts about Migraines

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Migraine is not just a headache. It is a disease that is very real and can be very debilitating.   Allergies often play a major role as a trigger of the headaches.  Migraines are not the same for all people. When migraines occur, parts of the brain are affected, which may result in some or all of the following symptoms:


*  Intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side of the head or both sides

*  Nausea and/or vomiting

*  Extreme sensitivity to light, noise, or odors

*  Visual disturbances known as “aura”

*  Vision changes, including blurred vision or blind spots

*  Feeling tired and/or confused

*  Feeling cold or sweaty

*  Impaired ability to function


Common migraine triggers


Migraine may occur in response to particular events, foods or changes in the body. Recent evidence suggests that these triggers do not actually cause migraine, but they can interact with the pain centers in your brain, potentially making you more vulnerable to attacks.  Some examples of triggers include:

*  Strong odors, bright lights, or loud noises

*  Menstruation or ovulation

*  Medications

*  Changes in weather or altitude

*  Being tired, stressed, or depressed, or even relieved of stress

*  Changes in sleeping patterns, too much or too little sleep

*  Missing meals

*  Certain foods or beverages, such as aged cheese, chocolate, MSG, caffeine, artificial sweetners or alcohol


Ways to help avoid migraine triggers


*  Go to bed and wake up at regular times each day.

*  Eat regular meals  at least three times each day.

*  Exercise three to five days each week,

*  Limit caffeine and alcohol.

*  Reduce stress.


Working with your doctor


You and your doctor can work together to make a treatment plan that:

*  Can help you identify and control the triggers that can start a migraine

*  Uses medicine to prevent and treat migraine attacks

*  Support healthy behavior and lifestyle changes


What is a Headache Diary and how do you use it?

A headache diary can help you identify migraine triggers and track how your medicine is working. Using a headache diary can help you keep track of your progress on a daily basis.  You should take your migraine diary to all of your doctor visits so you can talk about your migraine attacks. This helps your doctor to closely monitor your triggers, symptoms and the effectiveness of your treatment plan.


Migraine treatment


There are different approaches to treating migraines with medicine. Acute treatment is taking medicine at the beginning of a migraine attack to relieve symptoms can help your doctor choose the right acute treatment option for you.


Acute Treatment of Migraines with Medicine


You start acute treatment as soon as you think you are getting a migraine. Some examples of medicines used for the acute treatment of migraine are:


*  Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as aspirin, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and others.  These can be tricky and cause “rebound” headache problems so you want to minimize their use.

*  Triptans, such as almotriptan, eletriptan, frovantriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, sumatriptan, and zolmitriptan.  Common brand names are Imitrex and Zomig both now available in generic forms.

Seeking a quiet dark room for relief is often helpful.

How do allergies affect migraines?

Allergic triggers are common in migraines both air borne allergens and food allergens.  Often the allergic headache or sinus pressure from allergic reactions can increase the frequency and severity  of migraines.  Knowing what you are allergic to and avoiding it as well as treating the allergy with medications and allergy shots or immunotherapy can make a dramatic difference.  Often sinus headaches are confused with migraines and the need for diagnosis with a mini-CT scan of the sinuses can untangle the confusion.  A normal sinus scan can help determine that the migraines are not being triggered by sinusitis.  Also deviated septum can be diagnosed which can create pressure with allergy flares resulting in headaches caused by the tissues swelling against the deviated septum.  This can be an additional trigger of a migraine.  With allergy care you can reduce the frequency and severity of the migraines.   Allergy testing can really make a difference!!