A migraine headache is an intense headache that causes throbbing, sensitivity to sound and light, and sometimes, nausea with vomiting. Many things can trigger (bring on) a migraine headache, such as stress, physical exertion, and certain foods.
Are migraine headaches common?
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, around 22% of adults age 18 years and older reported having some type of severe headache during the past 3 months before the 2011 survey. The American Headache Society reports that 28 million Americans suffer from migraines. The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey found that headaches were the 3rd leading cause of emergency department visits.
What causes migraine headaches?
The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known, but researchers believe environmental and genetic factors play a role. In addition, chemical imbalances in the brain are also involved. Researchers found that during migraine attacks, serotonin levels in the brain drop, causing the release of neuropeptides, which contribute to head pain. Finally, another identified cause of migraine is barometric pressure and weather changes.
What are the risk factors for migraine headaches?
Experts have identified several risk factors for migraine headaches. These include:
- Age – Most migraine sufferers experience their first symptoms during the teenage years. However, migraines can start at any time during life.
- Family history – According to data from the American Committee on Headache Education, around 80% of people with migraines have a family history of these headaches.
- Sex – During early childhood, boys are affected slightly more than girls. However, this trend reverses during adolescence. Women are more likely than men to have migraine headaches.
- Hormones – Women have migraines usually before or right after their menstrual periods, and menopause is associated with increased headaches. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are thought to be factors in migraine head pain.
What are migraine triggers?
Triggers are situations, events, and substances that bring on a migraine attack. Triggers include:
- Aged cheese and processed foods
- Skipping meals
- Noise and/or light
- Certain medications like birth control p8ills and vasodilators
- Lack of sleep
- Physical exertion
- Aspartame and mononsodium glutamate (MSG)
What are symptoms are associated with migraine headaches?
Symptoms that occur with migraine headaches include severe throbbing or pounding head pain, sensitivity to noise and/or light, eye pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.
How is migraine headache treated?
Treatment options with a top Chicago migraine specialist include:
- Pain relievers – Medicines that relieve pain include aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and opioid analgesics.
- Triptans – To abort (stop) a migraine headache, these drugs are used. Examples include Frova, Amerge, and Axert.
- Ergots – Cafergot and Migergot are drugs that contain ergotamine and caffeine, which abort headaches.
- Anti-nausea medicines – Phenergan, Compro, and Reglan are drugs used for nausea.
- Preventive medications – Betimol and Inderal are beta-blockers used for migraine prevention. In addition, calcium channel blockers are also used, such as Calan and Verelan. To reduce the frequency of migraines, anticonvulsants (Topamax and Depacon) and antidepressants (nortriptyline and amitriptyline) are prescribed.
- Botox injections – Botulinum toxin A (Botox) has been used for the prevention of migraine headaches. In a recent clinical study involving 250 patients who received Botox, most reported significant reduction in headache frequency and duration.
- Occipital nerve block – When headaches occur in the back of the head, an occipital nerve block can be used. This involves injecting an anesthetic with or without a corticosteroid agent near the occipital nerves.
- Acupuncture – With this ancient Chinese therapy, small needles are inserted into the back of the neck. According to a recent randomized study, acupuncture decreased headaches by 2.3 days. The patients reported decreased headache pain by at least 50%.
- Biofeedback – This is a form of relaxation that utilizes special equipment to teach the patient how to control physical body responses caused by stress.
Premier Pain and Spine in Chicago offers top migraine treatment with specialists providing both medication management and interventional procedures. Call us today!
Diener HC, Kronfeld K, Boewing G, Lungenhausen M, et al. (2006). Efficacy of acupuncture for the prophylaxis of migraine: a multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. Lancet Neuro, 5(4):310-6.
Khalil M, Zafar HW, Quarshie V, & Fayyaz A (2012). Prospective analysis of the use of Ona botulinum toxin A (BOTOX) in the treatment of chronic migraine.
Jurgens TP, Muller P, Seedorf H, et al. (2012). Occipital nerve block is effective in craniofacial neuralgias but not in idiopathic persistent facial pain. Journal of Headache Pain, 13(3), 199-213.
Smitherman TA, Burch R, Sheikh H, & Loder E (2013). The prevalence, impact, and treatment of migraine and severe headaches in the United States: a review of statistics from national surveillance studies. Headache, 53(3):427-36. doi: 10.1111/head.12074.