A migraine is a type of headache that causes an intense throbbing pain which is usually on one side of the head. Other symptoms of migraines include vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound which are known as photophobia and phonophobia respectively. Some patients also experience flashes of light and visual disturbances like blind spots.
The exact cause of migraines is not known but they are thought to occur due to blood flow changes in the brain as the blood vessels react to various triggers. Migraine triggers include foods like aged cheeses, food additives like the preservative monosodium glutamate and drinks like wine. Stress and changes in the sleep-wake pattern can also trigger migraine attacks.
Migraines cannot be cured but numerous medications are available to manage them. These drugs are divided into acute treatment medications and preventative medications. Acute treatment medications are those which are taken once a migraine attack has begun in order to stop it. Examples include the triptans like sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt) and almotriptan (Axert). These medications work by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways to the brain. Their side effects include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and muscle weakness.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen and naproxen are also taken once a migraine attack has begun to relieve the pain. They are usually more effective when combined with the triptans. Their side effects include ulcers and medication overuse headache.
Preventative medications are those which are taken to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. The only preventative treatment approved by the FDA for chronic migraine (more than 15 headache days per month – any type of headache) is Botox. Botox was approved for the prevention of migraine headaches in 2010. The procedure is completed in the office and is only needed four times a year. Other examples include beta blockers propranolol (Inderal) and metoprolol (Lopressor), antidepressants like amitriptyline and seizure medications like Topamax and gabapentin.
The latest research on migraines which was published in the journal Missouri Medicine suggest that eye drops used to treat glaucoma can offer relief from migraines if instilled as the attack begins.
The contact person from the National Migraine Association http://www.migraines.org/help/helpsprt.htm for persons with migraine headaches in Tennessee is Susan Hardy. She can be reached by phone at 615 284 4680.