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Migraines are not just bad headaches, they are a neurological disease. More than 38 million people suffer from migraines in the United States. With the development of new preventative medication, migraine susceptible patients now have renewed hope.
What exactly is a migraine?
As stated by the Migraine Research Foundation, “Previously, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the head were thought to be the primary source of migraine pain, and early medications focused on the blood vessels as the principal target for treatment. Researchers now believe that migraine is a neurological disorder involving nerve pathways and brain chemicals”.
Neurological disorders affect the nervous system, which includes the brain and pain fibers from the tissues surrounding the brain. Migraines disrupt the way the brain processes pain, light, sound, and smell.
The cause of migraines are still unknown. Currently, there are no tests that can diagnose migraines, but medical professionals can conclude if you are suffering from migraines via the following methods:
- Analyzing symptoms
- Review of family history
- Conducting medical tests
- Eliminating other possible causes of the headache.
Although a primary care physician can diagnose and treat migraines, it may be required to seek additional assistance from a neurologist or headache specialists. Especially if the symptoms are excessive and remain even after the physician assistance.
Is my headache a migraine?
Per a recent Women’s Health article, they provide a listing of 11 signs that your headache is actually a migraine:
- Debilitating throbbing
- Pain on only one side of your head
- Seeing sparking lights or flashes
- Weakness and tingling
- Next level nausea
- A heightened sense of smell
- You’re totally out of it-even after the pain is gone
- The throbbing derails your entire life
- You get crazy fatigued
- Your neck is stiff
- The pain seems like it lasts forever
Additionally, you should seek medical attention if the following are true:
- You’re trying over-the-counter medications for your headache, and it’s not working
- You experience headaches three or more times a month
- You feel you are missing out on life due to your headaches
Facts and Stats on migraines:
To truly understand the impact that migraines have on society, economicly and the individual, please review the following astonishing stats presented by migraine.com:
- 91 percent miss work or can’t function normally during migraine attack
- More than 70 percent have a family history of migraine
- 70 percent of those in a Canadian study said migraines caused problems in their relationships
- 70 percent of all migraine sufferers are women
- 69 percent have consulted a physician at some time seeking treatment for migraine pain
- 63 percent have one or more migraine attacks monthly
- 59 percent missed family or social events
- 53 percent have severe disability requiring reducing activities or bed rest
- 51 percent said migraines cut in half their work or school productivity
- Almost half of all migraine sufferers are have not been diagnosed
- 49 percent said they had to restrict activities for at least one day during a migraine episode
- 49 percent restricted their activities at least one day during migraine attacks
- 47 percent of people who have symptoms that meet the guidelines to be diagnosed with migraines thought they had a tension headache, sinus headache or another type of headache
- 31 percent missed at least one day of work or school in past three months
- 25 percent have one or more migraines a week
- 24 percent have gone to the emergency room because the migraine pain was so severe
- 6 percent saw a doctor at a hospital for a migraine in the past three months
The estimated loss of productivity in the United States is believed to be between $5.6 billion to $17.2 billion per year, due to missed work from migraines.
Migraine prevention and treatment:
Since the type of migraine is diagnosed based on the symptoms the patient suffers, it is recommended to keep a log of each attack. The patient should write down what they were doing before the symptoms appeared, how long the symptoms lasted and how intense the symptoms were.
Migraines take on many different forms. Such as migraine without aura, with aura, chronic, stress, silent or acephalgic, sinus, ocular, seasonal, cyclic, gastric stasis or tension migraine. Therefore, with keeping a journal, your physician can narrow down the type of migraine and advise the patient on the most relevant method of treatment.
Several non medication methods are currently available for treating or preventing migraines. For example: avoiding triggers, meditation, stress reduction, biofeedback and guided imagery. These methods have been found to help prevent the migraine from beginning, for some individuals.
Two categories of medication are currently being used to treat migraines. Acute medication, and preventive medication. Acute medicines are used to treat the headache pain during an episode. Whereas, preventative medication is used daily to reduce the frequency and intensity of the headache pain, over time.
Current acute medications that are being used to provide symptom relief include: calcitonin-gene-related peptide (CGRP) blockers, triptans, DHE 45 and ergotamine. Current preventative medications include: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants and neuronal stabilizing agents or anticonvulsants.Nerve stimulators, such as the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator device or the vagus nerve stimulators have also been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for migraine treatments.
As of September 2018, the FDA has approved three new preventive migraine drugs, galcanezumab-gnlm (Emgality), Erenumab (Aimovig) and fremanezumab-vfrm (Ajovy). Emgality targets calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is a molecule that’s produced in nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. Both Aimovig and Ajovy are a new injectable drug, which can be administered at the doctor office or at home.
The advancement of preventative medication solutions for migraine sufferers is changing on a rapid scale. Whether the patient receives a medication that prevents or reduces the symptoms, there is a renewed hope that will aid millions suffering from migraine pain.
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