Migraine headaches can be debilitating. Statistically, migraines affect women more than men. Sufferers may experience moderate to severe pain on one side of the head or all over, including the face, and are also associated with sensitivity to light, sound, or smell and sometimes can cause nausea and vomiting. Some people will see an aura before the onset of a migraine. Others experience additional neurological symptoms along with pain, including muscle weakness or numbness.
Treatment for Migraines
Many people suffer from migraines in silence, but a consultation with a neurologist can bring help and often times needed relief. Some common treatments for migraine attacks include:
Over the counter pain medications. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a combination of acetaminophen with aspirin and caffeine may help with mild to moderate migraines.
Pain medications. Prescription pain relievers like indomethacin, triptans, or ergot are stronger than their over-the-counter counterparts. If you are unable to take triptans or ergotamine, your neurologist may prescribe a narcotic. Some patients find that corticosteroids taken in conjunction with pain medications are helpful in alleviating the symptoms of migraine. Often times however pain medications are not effective against migraine pain, and in some instances may cause what are known as “rebound headaches” adding insult to injury.
Preventive Treatment for Migraines
If painkillers are not helping your migraine pain, or if you experience two or more severe attacks per month accompanied by other neurological symptoms, your doctor may prescribe preventive medications.
Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, typically used for cardiovascular health, have shown in some cases, to help reduce the frequency and/or severity of migraine headaches. Doctors aren’t sure why they work. Some common drugs in this category are propranolol, verapamil, and lisinopril.
Tricyclic antidepressants, especially amitriptyline, may reduce migraines by affecting serotonin and other chemicals in the brain.
Anti-seizure drugs. These drugs, including valproate, topiramate, and gabapentin appear to reduce migraine frequency.
BOTOX. Injections of this toxin, typically used for cosmetic purposes, are now FDA-approved for chronic migraine treatment.
Your doctor may also recommend biofeedback, acupuncture, or relaxation techniques to help manage migraines.