Diagnosis and Help for Migraines

Written by AnaLise on December 29, 2008 – 7:22 am -

Some people suffer with migraines for years before seeking help.  Some never seek help because they don’t know where to look or how to look.  That is a very painful way to go.  At least half of the migraine sufferers in the U.S. do not get diagnosis or treatment for their migraines. 

You should talk to your doctor about headaches, especially if you have more than a couple of headaches per month and/or if they last for several hours or days.  In addition, if your headachesare getting in the way of your home, work or school, or if you have nausea, vomiting or other symptoms accompanying them, it is important for you to talk to your doctor about your headaches and all of your symptoms.

It is important to prepare for your doctor’s visit and help your doctor identify your headaches by keeping track of certain things in advance.  Before your appointment, make sure to write down how often your headaches are occurring and how long they last from beginning to end.  Write down what your symptoms are, such as nausea, problems with light or noise, and where the pain is located.  Other important information includes when the headache and other symptoms start, such as during your menstrual period, after you have eaten specific food or had a certain beverage.  For instance, some people can drink beer and rum but not vodka or wine.  They have no symptoms with a glass of beer or a drink that has rum in it, but if they have a glass of wine or a drink with vodka in it, they may have very extreme symptoms within a few minutes or hours.  These are things your doctor needs to know.  Also let the doctor know if your family has any history of migraines or other headaches and if you are having other symptoms, such as blind spots.

Your doctor will review this information with you.  You might have to have some tests including a blood test.  This will start the process of finding the appropriate treatment for your headaches and migraines.  If you are looking for further information after you speak with your doctor, you can find information at www.migraines.org.


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Exercise Triggers Migraine Headaches

Written by AnaLise on December 17, 2008 – 12:57 am -

We often think of migraine triggers as being something we eat or drink, not getting enough sleep or too much stress.  These are certainly common triggers that migraine sufferers are well aware of.

New studies have shown that something that is supposed to be good for us and healthy for us can – and does – trigger migraine headaches.  When we hear about ways that we can keep migraines under control, we are told that staying healthy is a good way to diminish the frequency and severity of migraines.  Yet, one of the healthiest things we can do – exercising – is actually found to be a major trigger in some people.  Running, cycling, swimming or weight lifting are popular, but when they are connected to migraines, they can discourage even the best athletes.

If you are finding that you get migraines when you exercise, there are some things you can do to avoid, eliminate or at least diminish these awful headaches.  Experts – especially ultra runners and triatheletes – state that it is important to stop these headaches before they start by staying hydrated.  It is important to drink fluids before engaging in whatever type of exercise you wish to choose, and it is important to stay hydrated and make sure you replace electrolytes.  If you still get a migraine, experts suggest drinking a 20 ounce electrolyte drink and then drink another 20 ounce electrolyte drink over the next 30 minutes.  Taking those steps plus cutting down caffeine by 50% and eliminating salt can also help.

One other way to fight these exertion headaches is with proper nutition.  This can mean eliminating sugar, sugar substitutes like aspartame, artificial flavors and preservatives including MSG, high doses of caffeine, nuts, peanut butter, beans, aged cheese and nitrates, comonly found in hot dogs and lunch meats. 

Even though you might have to adjust your diet or exercise regimen a little, it will be worth it to eliinate those debilitating migraine headaches.  There is a way to deal with these headaches and still have a busy active life.


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Hormones and Migraines: Is There a Link?

Written by AnaLise on December 17, 2008 – 12:14 am -

Researchers have been looking for causes of migraine headaches for years, and they have found some solid causes.  They have also found that with the wide variety of migraine causes, they are all different and affect each migraine sufferer differently.  In addition, there seem to be more and more migraine causes discovered, and these are triggers for some migraine sufferers, yet don’t do a thing for others.  It seems to work like allergies – different people have different problems with different substances.

As for migraines, there is yet another trigger that is linked to them.  That trigger is hormones.  There has been ongoing discussion about whether or not hormones trigger migraine headaches, but there has been no true clear cut answer in the past. 

The latest information is that hormones are definitely linked to migraines in some women.  Usually the migraines occur just before, during or after ovulation or a woman’s monthly period.  The reason for this is that during those times there can be a drastic fluctuation in hormone levels. 

What can be done to help women who are dealing with this situation?  It’s bad enough just to have to deal with all these monthly issues without getting debilitating migraines in addition.  Researchers and physicians have an answer and an effective way to either eliminate or diminish these terrible headaches.  They suggest that migraine medication be prescribed to women so that the medication can be taken before the hormone fluctuations cause their migraines.

If you are a woman who is dealing with migraines that seem to be triggered by hormones on a regular basis, talk to your doctor and see if thre is medication that can bring you relief from at least the headaches that come with the rest of the monthly barrage of symptoms.


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Migraine Research Finds Some Answers

Written by AnaLise on December 13, 2008 – 7:29 pm -

Migraines have been around for a long time.  Not many years ago, doctors had very few remedies for a migraine sufferer, especially a chronic migraine sufferer.  They could recommend rest, decrease of stress and aspirin, Tylenol or Advil.  In addition, ice packs were recommended often.  The problem was that most of these treatments didn’t work – and don’t work – against tough, strong, painful, debilitating and/or chronic migraines.

Because of continuous research by leaders in the medical field, such as the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health and The National Headache Foundation, there have been many new discoveries and medications developed and many new uses for existing medications, as well.

In addition, research found ways to help some migraine sufferers avoid a lot of medication and still ease the pain of migraines.  Research has also helped develop various treatments such as biofeedback, which often helps migraine sufferers ease the symptoms without medication or with less medication.  There has also been the development of a number of specific medications that were created for migraines, such as Cafergot, Topomax, Imitrex, Toridol, Midrin, Maxalt, Relpax, Zomig, Frova, Acular, Axert, Anaprox, Fioricet, Orudis, Amerge, Migranol and many others.   Research has yielded a vast amount of choices of medications recently, when less than 15 years ago there were only one or two medications available that were specifically for migraines.  Without continuous research about migraines, there could still only be a couple of medications available to migraine sufferers.

Some of the more recent or ongoing studies about migraines have included researching looking at synapses, neurons, the role of resting MRI’s in diagnosing chronic migraines, the effects of estrogen levels and menstruation on migraines and many other studies and forms of research. A great deal of research is concentrating on neuralogical issues that caon cause migraines, such as issues with misinformation in the brain.

With a tremendous amount of research continuing throughout the country at major universities, medical centers and other heath care institutions, as well as around the world in other countries, there is hope for migraine sufferers.  Today, there is hope in the form of choices of treatment and medications.  Tomorrow there could be answers about and elimination of the causes of migraines and the end of the excessive suffering from this debilitating form of headache.  Researchers have found some answers and by continuing their work, they are finding new answers on a regular basis.


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Kids Get Migraines Too

Written by AnaLise on December 13, 2008 – 6:56 pm -

 

It is only recently that experts have begun to agree that kids get headaches.  Sometimes they get really bad headaches, including migraines.  That’s not what physicians and researchers used to say, which kept many kids – and their families – needlessly suffering.

Most children get headaches now and then, and they don’t necessarily get horrible and disabling headaches but many of them have gotten some pretty intense migraines.  Migraine headaches are usually a pounding type of headache on one side of the head or the other of the temple or behind the eye. 

Studies show that up to 5% of school aged children get migraine headaches.  The percentages increase as children get older, topping at 20% for high school aged children and adolescents.  Girls suffer from migraines more often than boys do, often having them two or more times per week.

Many children say that their migraines make them feel like throwing up.  Others say that they feel like their heart is pounding in their chest when they have a migraine, or they feel like they are in a huge bass drum when a migraine hits.  They also report feeling like they need to lie down in a dark room.

These symptoms are very similar or even the same as adult symptoms of migraines.  The causes of these headches are the same, too.  Smells, foods, stress, being too tired and eating certain foods can all be triggers to migraines.  The foods and smells vary depending on the child but additives, such as MSG, smoked or processed meats with nitrites, nuts and pickles can be triggers.

Some children get migraines that are so bad and occur so often that the doctor prescribes ongoing medication for the child.  Instructions are given as to what to do if a migraine comes on, and how to handle the situation.  As with adults, lying in a dark, quiet room can help.  Using an ice pack can also help. 

If you have a child or adolescent that suffers from frequent headaches – especially migraines – take them to see their doctor.  The doctor will perform tests and do a thorough examination and will probably prescribe medication to help tame the migraines when they come on. 

These headaches should be taken seriously.  They are not life-threatening, however, they are very uncomfortable, and now that there is more information and a variety of medications available to deal with them, there is no reason for children to suffer with migraines the way they did before research provided us with answers and relief.


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New Research and Meds Provide Hope

Written by AnaLise on December 4, 2008 – 1:15 pm -

 

Migraines have been a problem for a long time.  Not many years ago, the best doctors could do for a migraine sufferer, especially a chronic migraine sufferer, was to recommend rest, decrease of stress and aspirin, Tylenol or Advil.  In addition, ice packs were common treatments.  The problem was that most of these treatments didn’t work – and don’t work – against tough, strong, painful, debilitating and chronic migraines.

Because of continuous research in the medical field, such as researchers from the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health and The National Headache Foundation, there have been many new medications developed and many new uses for existing medications, as well.

In addition, research has discovered some ways to help some migraine sufferers avoid a lot of medication and still ease the pain of migraines.  Research has also helped develop various treatments such as biofeedback, which often helps migraine sufferers ease the symptoms without medication or with less medication.  Research has also helped develop a number of specific medications that were created for migraines, such as Cafergot, Topomax, Imitrex, Toridol, Midrin, Maxalt, Relpax, Zomig, Frova, Acular, Axert, Anaprox, Fioricet, Orudis, Amerge, Migranol and many others.  The fact that there are now a large amount of choices of medications, when less than 15 years ago there were only one or two medications available that were specifically for migraines, helps migraine sufferers have choices and have a better chance to interact with doctors and other medical professionals involved in their treatment.  Without continuous research about migraines and what helps ease and relieve them, there could still only be a couple of medications available to migraine sufferers leaving few options and fewer conversation as well as less participation in a person’s own care and treatment of migraines.

Some of the more recent or ongoing studies about migraines have included looking at synapses, neurons, the role of resting MRI’s in diagnosing chronic migraines, the effects of estrogen levels and menstruation on migraines and many other studies and forms of research.

With this amount of research continuing throughout the country at major universities, medical centers and other heath care institutions, there is hope for migraine sufferers.  Today, there is hope in the form of choices of treatment and medications.  Tomorrow there could be answers about and elimination of the causes of migraines and the end of the excessive suffering from this debilitating form of headache.


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Determining Your Migraine Basics

Written by AnaLise on December 4, 2008 – 11:23 am -

Migraines have become widely known as the headaches that are debilitating and often very stubborn and difficult to treat.  They are often confused with cluster headaches or just plain old bad headaches, sending many to doctors and neurologists only to find that they are not suffering from a migraine at all.

Over 28 million individuals actually do suffer from migraines and women suffer from migraines over 3 times as often as men do.  It is interesting that pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy actually experience a decrease in migraines, a phenomenon that is being studied by researchers.

How do you know if you have a bad headache or a migraine?  For one thing, migraines usually come on with pain on one side of the head or the other.  This is not always the case, though, as up to 40% of migraines can affect both sides of the head. 

Often, migraines come on with other symptoms, such as nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and noise and other symptoms including not being able to tolerate things that you normally tolerate well.  These could include not being able to wear a headband or pull your hair back into a pony tail, not being able to wear a necklace or anything that feels tight around the neck, limbs or body, and not being able to lie down on a pillow.

Migraines are triggered by various stimuli.  Some of these are MSG (found in Chinese and other foods, including meat tenderizer and Accent), nitrites (found in hot dogs and other meats), caffeine, chocolate, certain nuts, alcohol, sleeping too much or not enough, hormonal changes, menstrual periods, pregnancy, humidity, barometric pressure and other foods or smells. 

Migraine medication and treatment has advanced a great deal during the past decade.  There are many types of medications available to treat migraines, as well as treatments including biofeedback, relaxation therapy and more.

If you feel you are having any of these symptoms and are having difficulty eliminating or controlling them, contact your doctor to see what will work for you.  The first thing is knowing how to identify migraines.  The next is knowing that help is available.


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Identifying Migraine Headaches

Written by AnaLise on December 1, 2008 – 12:42 pm -

Migraine headaches have been around for years, only they were not always recognized as such.  In the past, if a person – especially a woman – had a migraine headache, or a series of severe headaches, their family, friends and doctors did not take them too seriously, telling her that things were just not that bad and she had to relax, not worry so much or just get over it.  Sometimes, the doctor would prescribe tranquilizers to “calm her down”.  Either way, there wasn’t much help for women or men who had these debilitating, sickening and painful headaches.

Things have progressed tremendously, especially during the past few years.  Migraines have been identified as a severe pain on one or both sides of the head, mostly around the temples or behind one eye or ear.  In addition to this pain, migraines are also identified by their accompanying severe nausea and vomiting, as well as severe reaction to light and sound.  In other words, you wish you could lie in a cool dark room and not hear, see or smell anything. Many migraine sufferers say they wish that someone could knock them out until the pain subsides, which often takes from a couple of hours to a couple of days. 

Studies show that most migraines affect people between 15 and 55 years old, however, they often affect people outside those age limits.  They can also be hereditary, and are more common in women.  There are current studies regarding the causes of migraines in children and infants, as well.

Migraines can be triggered by blood flow issues, lack of food, allergies to specific foods, lack of sleep, stress during the menstrual cycle, general stress or anxiety, weather changes, chocolate, alcohol or nicotine, bright light or loud noise and/or food additives such as MSG or nitrates.

If you are having ongoing severe headaches, it is important to keep track of when they are happening – including date and time – and what you were doing within the hour or two that they began.  It is also critical to see your doctor and provide this information to him/her so an accurate diagnosis can be made and treatment prescribed. 

With more information regarding migraines, there are various treatments that your doctor can use to help alleviate this problem.  It is possible to fight migraines and no longer suffer in silence.


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Finding Help for Migraines

Written by AnaLise on December 1, 2008 – 12:39 pm -

 

Migraines are debilitating and painful.  They can put us out of commission for hours or days, sometimes weeks.   Yet, some people never seek help for them.  That is a very painful way to go.  Nearly half or the migraine sufferers do not get diagnosis or treatment for their migraines, partially because they don’t know where to go or who to ask.

A good place to start is to talk to your doctor, especially if you have several headaches per month and they last for several hours or days.  If your headaches disrupt your home, work or school, or if you have nausea, vomiting or other symptoms, talk to your doctor about your headaches and all of your symptoms.

Prepare in advance for your doctor’s visit and help your doctor identify your headaches by keeping track of certain things.  Before your appointment, start writing down how often your headaches are occurring and how long they last from beginning to end.  Write down what your symptoms are, such as nausea, problems with light or noise, and where the pain is located.  Other important information includes tracking when the headache and other symptoms start, such as during or before your menstrual period, after you have eaten specific food or had a specific beverage to drink. 

For instance, some people can drink beer and rum but not vodka or wine.  They don’t get headaches from a glass of beer or a drink that has rum in it, but if they have a glass of wine or a drink with vodka in it, they have very extreme symptoms within a few minutes or hours.  Your doctor needs to know this type of details.  In addition, tell the doctor if your family has any history of migraines or other headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, or other health issues, and if you are having other symptoms, such as blind spots.

Your doctor will review this information with you and possibly perform some tests including a blood test.  This will start the process of finding the causes and appropriate treatment for your headaches and migraines.

 If you are looking for further information after you speak with your doctor, you can find information at www.migraines.org.


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New Treatments for Migraines

Written by AnaLise on November 20, 2008 – 8:21 am -

 

If you are reading this, you have probably had at least one migraine headache, and most likely many more and on a regular basis.  We know how overpowering and debilitating they are.  We also know that it is not always easy to find treatment or relief from these headaches.

There is now some good news about migraine treatment.  Alan Rapoport, a professor of neurology at U.C.L.A., who has studied headaches for the past 35 years, says that there are some “exciting” new drugs coming in the near future to deal with migraines. 

The cause of migraines is not clear.  There are various ideas regarding migraine causes as well as some of the effects.  One main thing that ties all of them together is that when a person has a migraine something called the trigeminal nerve system, which moves information from the face, head, brain and spinal cord to the brain stem – is triggered.  Researchers have determined that this happens in every migraine, no matter what the cause or trigger.

During a migraine the trigeminal nerve system releases CGRP, which is a peptide, and CGRP causes the blood vessels to enlarge and creates pain.  A lot of pain.  There is a medication being tested currently that would this process from happening.  The medication, called telcagepant and produced by Merck, is in the final stages of trials and Merck is looking for FDA approval to begin marketing the drug next year.  This is essential for migraine sufferers.  Over 55% of the people in trials who took the medication had near immediate relief, and another 23% had total relief within 2 hours. 

Triptans used to be the drugs touted to help eliminate migraines, however, because they constricted the blood vessels and could cause heart attack or stroke.  Telcagepant does not work the same way, and researchers feel that it is much safer. 

Botox is another option for some.  In addition, for migraines with aura, there are ways to stop the aura so that the migraine never happens, by using transcranial magnetic stimulation – which stops the overload of the electrical activity in the brain. 

Regardless of what can work for you, there are now more options and more kinds of options for migraine headache sufferers, including me.


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Dealing With Continuous Migraines

Written by AnaLise on November 20, 2008 – 7:51 am -

If you have suffered from a migraine headache every once in a while, you know that they are debilitating, they are awful and you hold your breath during an episode, then breathe a sigh of relief when they are over.  Not only do migraines pretty much wipe us out for a few hours or days, they also leave us exhausted too many times.  It often takes days after the episode in order to get back to being yourself.

Now, think of how overwhelming it would be if – instead of having a migraine every once in a while – you had a migraine regularly, monthly, weekly or even daily.  Having suffered migraines myself for many years, often on a weekly basis, I am familiar with the pain and the after effects.  You barely get your equilibrium back again when the cycle starts all over.  It messes up your work, your family and your life.

There are some ways to deal with continuous migraines.  First of all, there are newer and more advanced medications that can stop migraines as their symptoms begin, stop migraines before they begin (by taking medication regularly), and stop migraines altogether.  There are different treatments for different people.  It’s not a “one size fits all” sort of treatment. 

If you suffer from regular headaches go to the doctor and get help.  Make sure you are keeping track of symptoms.  Are there visual problems that come with them?  Nausea?  Does your neck hurt?  What was happening at work or home before the migraine that might have brought it on?  Was it extreme stress?  What did you eat or drink before the headache?  Were you tired, lethargic, having a hard time concentrating?  All of these can be precursors to migraines.

The interesting fact is that over 25% of migraine sufferers get no real warning before they start.  Many migraine sufferers suffer in silence, sometimes for years.  When my migraines started – due to some serious health problems and hormone changes – there were not many choices of medications and both my family and the doctors – several of them – told me they were all in my head.  Only the emergency room – usually at the most inopportune time in the middle of the night – would take a look at my symptoms and feel sorry enough to use some sort of medication to knock me out for a while.

Things have changed.  There is help available.  Don’t suffer through migraine after migraine.  See a specialist.  Talk to your doctor.  Look for information on the web.  It can – and does – get better. 

Two good sites are www.migraines.org and www.fda.gov (click on migraines).


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Promise of a New Migraine Medicine

Written by AnaLise on November 14, 2008 – 7:18 am -

There is more research regarding migraine headaches now than ever before.  Studies have revealed possible links between migraines and a lower incidence of breast cancer.  Other studies have resulted in information regarding triggers that were heretofore unknown.  There have been definite connections discovered between migraines and stroke, migraines and brain issues, migraines and DNA plus genetics.

There are more medications available now including meds from triptans to seizure medications to other meds used for a number of ailments now being used to treat migraines.  Not every medication works for every person, as with any other illness.

There is now a new medication being tested that should be approved by the FDA sometime in 2009.  The medication, called telcagepant, is touted as a medication that will be tough on the debilitating symptoms of migraines.

Anyone who has ever had a migraine – or sat by helplessly as a family member or friend suffered from one – knows how painful, overwhelming and debilitating these headaches are.  Many sufferers have described these headaches as feeling like “rats inside their brain trying to chew their way out” or “hot knife or spike going through the middle or side of their brain” or “their eyeball being stabbed with a burning fire poker.”  None of these are  positive experiences, in fact, folks who have been stabbed, broken limbs, had serious back problems and other painful conditions including kidney stones, have reported that their migraine headaches were much more painful and they would deal with the pain from the other injuries any day rather than cope with a migraine.

Nonetheless, the good news is that research continues and more treatments are being discovered almost daily.  Hopefully telcagepant will become the medication that truly gets a lot of migraines under control, or just helps them disappear.


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Impact of Migraines on Families

Written by AnaLise on November 10, 2008 – 11:22 am -

We often address issues that migraine sufferers have tot deal with.  They are numerous and they are debilitating.  The pain, the nausea, the sight issues and more can be – and usually are – overwhelming. 

As someone who has suffered from migraines, I can tell you that in addition to the physical issues, there are other issues that can be so difficult to deal with, there is frustration, sometimes depression and often guilt.  We wonder what is wrong with us that doctors can’t figure out.  Are we going to have a stroke and die?  Is the pain ever going to stop?  What am I doing wrong?  What is my family thinking or feeling?  Helpless?  Scared?  Frustrated and Angry?

These are questions we ask ourselves.  However, the makers of Maxalt, a migraine medication, has jut received the results of a survey that gives the answers as to how migraines affect families.

61% of migraine sufferers who took the survey stated that they worry about their families because they cannot take care of their responsibilities during a migraine episode, and the families must take over.  In addition, migraine sufferers cite having to miss many activities including ball games, birthdays and other special activities because of a severe migraine.  They also talk about the fact that members of the family – especially spouses – often resent the issues brought on by migraines.  In fact, there have been many marriages torn apart, ending in divorce because of one or both spouses having difficulty dealing with migraines.

Another issue that came up a lot was the feeling of helplessness that family members have in watching their parent or sibling suffering and not being able to do anything to make them feel better.  Over 50% of migraine sufferers have stated that the migraines – especially over the long term – have led to depression and often to thoughts of suicide. 

Because so many people suffer from migraines and many of them suffer greatly and often, it is important for them to keep trying to find the treatment – and the doctor – that can help give relief.  In addition, if you suffer from migraines and they are causing emotional issues for you and your family, think about a support group or counseling in addition to other treatment.

For information visit www.migraines.org or www.migraineresearchfoundation.org.


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A Silver Lining for Migraines?

Written by AnaLise on November 10, 2008 – 11:20 am -

As anyone who has suffered even one debilitating migraine knows, these headaches can be horrible beyond description.  They have been described as everything from a hot sword going through one’s head, a vice at the back of the head, neck or eyeball that just keeps tightening, and various other descriptions of very painful experiences.  Just the descriptions alone can make most of us wince with pain at the thought of these headaches.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel and even a silver lining regarding migraines.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that researchers are finding more ways to fight migraines, more triggers to focus on – to help people avoid them, thus eliminating these headaches – and more treatments for migraines.  Medication is better and more specific.  Gizmos and gadgets that actually work are being invented, including electromagnetic and other instruments that work on the nerves and the transmission overload that often causes migraines. 

The silver lining is one of those catch 22 situations, but it is still quite important.  Researchers think they have discovered a link between migraines and lower breast cancer.  They have recently estimated that women who suffer from migraines have about a 30% lower chance of getting breast cancer than those who do not have migraines.

Doctors and researchers attribute part of the connection between the lower incidence of breast cancer and high incidence of migraines to the fluctuation in hormones that can be involved in both issues.  The cancers that are being prevented are estrogen sensitive, so researchers are working hard to provide a link between the hormones, migraines and low breast cancer percentages.

Though his is the silver lining and excellent news, researchers are reminding us that these are very preliminary findings.  There will be more research to come.

 


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A New Fact About Migraines

Written by AnaLise on October 30, 2008 – 10:28 am -

I recently ran across some information that was a little surprising (but somehow made sense) regarding someone who suffered migraine headaches.  Sometimes, we find information that we don’t really expect.  In this particular case, the information shows how much migraine treatment and relief has changed and advanced.

It seems that the author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, suffered from migraine headaches.  In fact, it is now thought that those migraines caused hallucinations, and all of this added up to the inspiration for the book that most of us have read ourselves and most of our children have read, too.

If you ever suffered from debilitating migraines, you can possibly imagine a man being tortured by severe headache pain along with the nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and the extreme sensitivity to noise. 

When people suffer from migraines, they are pretty much not up to doing anything. Their senses – especially sight, sound, smell and taste – are impaired during migraines, especially migraines with aura.  In addition to the other symptoms of migraine headaches, migraine aura can include seeing spots, feeling faint, seeing wavy lines and other symptoms.

Whether you believe that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or not, it is clear to most people that he was dealing with hallucinations.  If these hallucinations were brought on by migraine headaches, it is understandable how some of the situations described in the book came to be.

Those of us who have suffered migraines understand the feeling of falling down a hole – or wanting to – and other situations.  It is important, though, to make sure you seek medical attention for your migraines.  They can be connected to other serious health problems including stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and blindness.  If your doctor brushes you off or doesn’t take you seriously, find another doctor. 

Migraines can be fatal.  Make sure you do everything you can to treat them.


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Managing Migraine Headaches

Written by AnaLise on October 30, 2008 – 10:24 am -

There are over 30 million migraine sufferers in the United States and about 65% of these individuals are women.  Researchers have determined that migraines are genetic – so the majority of migraine sufferers inherit these debilitating headaches through heredity.

If your parents and/or grandparents had migraines there is nearly a 60% chance that you will have migraines. This does not mean that you are doomed to a life of migraines without help or relief.

Besides heredity, there are other causes of migraines, such as environment and serious head and neck injuries. Dr. Merle Diamond says, “A person with migraines has a more sensitive nervous system, which is extremely impacted by changes in hormones, lack of sleep, skipping meals, red wine, smoke, stress or other triggers.”   Dr. Diamond of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago also explains, “These triggers lead to changes in the brain, which turn on the brainstem, which dilates blood vessels and causes inflammation, which causes the pain.” 

Too many migraine sufferers try over-the-counter migraine medication only to find that they don’t usually help bring relief, they actually can make migraine headaches worse.  Some of the ingredients in over-the-counter medications are actually irritants when it comes to migraines.

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing to bring relief.  Unlike 20 years ago, these days there are many prescription medications that your doctor can prescribe specifically for migraine headaches.  There are other medication that can help an individual deal with stress and other issues that may be bringing on the headaches.

The most important thing a migraine sufferer can do is seek treatment through a doctor – especially one who specializes in this area.  Don’t be a hero and ignore your symptoms.  Not only could they get worse, they could also lead to a stroke.  In addition, migraines are connected to other cardiovascular issues.

Managing your migraines is not impossible.  It may take a little time to find the right treatment and/or meds, but once you and your doctor or chiropractor are able to determine a good plan to control your symptoms, the time you took to find a way to manage your migraines will be worth it.


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Can Chiropractors Help Migraines?

Written by AnaLise on October 30, 2008 – 10:20 am -

 

When most of us think of migraine headaches, we tend to think of how we can find relief and where we can find it.  We usually think of doctors, urgent care and even the emergency room for relief, depending upon how bad the headache is and whether the migraine starts at 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning.

For those of us who are used to going to a chiropractor for treatment, sometimes we think about going to see our chiropractor for help.  There are others who go to the chiropractor for other things but are unsure as to whether or not a chiropractor can bring relief for migraine headaches.

Many people feel that a good and experienced chiropractor can provide relief.  With millions of migraine sufferers trying to deal with triggers and other issues that cause their migraines. 

The upper part of your neck and cervical spine is located at the brain stem and is full of nerves that can send pain signals to anywhere in the head.  Many individuals that suffer from headaches –especially migraines – note that they very often experience pain that begins at the base of the brain and progresses up the neck and the back of the head and over to the front or side of the head, and if you’ve suffered a migraine, you know the rest.

There are many stories of individuals who combat migraines on a long-term basis.  They either experience them regularly every week or month or maybe a bit less often, or they experience a migraine that continues for days or even weeks or more.  Many of these individuals have sought out conservative chiropractic services and found relief.  Chiropractors can gently manipulate the bones, offer heat or cold treatments and massage, often eliminating migraine pain.

If you are suffering from migraines and have tried numerous remedies that have not worked, you can try a chiropractor and see if things work out well.  Many migraine sufferers have gone to a chiropractor as a last resort and found lasting relief.


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What Should I Ask About My Headaches?

Written by AnaLise on October 23, 2008 – 3:49 pm -

 

Some of us suffer from terrible headaches and have a million questions, but we don’t know if they are the right questions.  Often, we try to just muddle through.

Twenty years ago, there were few choices when battling migraines.  In fact, we weren’t sure what actual migraines were because there was little or no information available describing symptoms, triggers and treatment. 

Today, there is much more information available, and it is much easier to find.  There are organizations dedicated to research on migraines and other headaches.  There are physicians who are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches, particularly migraines.  There is information on the internet, at the library, at many health centers, clinics, hospitals and health departments.  There are homeopathic treatments, relaxation, biofeedback and other holistic treatments, as well as traditional medical treatment and combinations of various treatments. 

So, with all of this information abounding and with places to go and ways to get diagnosis and treatment, what are the most important issues to address and what questions do you need to consider in advance and discuss with your doctor?  There are a number of simple, straightforward questions that can help with your headaches and help determine if they are truly migraines.

It is important to try to keep track of your headache triggers.  What were you doing prior to the headache coming on?  What did you eat or drink in the few hours previous?  Were you under stress or dealing with a problem?  It would be good to keep track of this information in a headache diary.  If you ask yourself these questions and answer them in your diary, the information will be helpful to your doctor. 

Another consideration is to determine if any medicine you take can cause migraines or make them worse?  For instance, birth control pills and other medications can be problematic.  Asking yourself and your doctor the question regarding medication is important – for all medicine, whether prescription or over the counter.  It is possible that a simple change of medication can bring relief.

Another question to ask is what kind of treatment might work.  Is there a possibility that hypnosis, biofeedback or over the counter medicine – including herbs, vitamins and minerals – could help ease or eliminate the migraines?  If not, are there prescription medications that can help me by preventing migraines or by at least stopping them once I feel them coming on?  What are the side-effects and how can I make them as minimal as possible? 

Do I need to make changes in my life, and will the migraines possibly disappear with time?

These simple questions will give you and your doctor good, specific information that could save you both time and frustration, and keep you feeling better and out of pain from migraine and other headaches.


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What is a Vestibular Migraine?

Written by AnaLise on October 23, 2008 – 3:46 pm -

There is a lot of talk going around lately about vestibular migraines.  Part of the reason for this is that Janet Jackson who is known for working very hard to present her magnificent shows had to cancel part of her tour lately due to migraines.  At first, doctors weren’t sure what they were dealing with, but with time, observation and tests, Janet was diagnosed with vestibular migraines, and after just a few days of treatment, she was back on stage.

It used to be that all we heard about were tension headaches and migraine headaches, and perhaps a few words about stress headaches, which in my mind are the same as tension headaches.  So, what are vestibular migraines?  There are a lot of people who want to know.

A vestibular migraine is a migraine headache plus.  The plus is not a good plus; it’s an extra symptom to deal with in the midst of a debilitating migraine headache.  When a person experiences a vestibular migraine, they experience an episode of vertigo before – and often, during – a migraine headache.  The vestibular part of the migraine has to do with the inner ear, which keeps our balance.  Vertigo is a situation where a person actually feels like they are moving, even though it is a hallucination. 

According to individuals who have experienced vertigo, they have described it as being a spinning sensation or a feeling like you have just gotten off of a boat and still feel that up and down motion inside.  Doctors have said that in a vestibular migraine, quite often the vertigo comes on before the headache and lasts during the headache, as well as often being worse than the headache itself. 

There are other aspects of a vestibular migraine that need mentioning.  Many people with migraines can experience dizziness along with it or before it, however there are other symptoms in a vestibular migraines.  Some of the main symptoms include fainting, eye movements that are not normal, temporary loss of hearing and weakness in the arms and/or legs. 

Vestibular migraines used to be thought of as a lack of circulation to the back of the brain, however through research, physicians have discovered that they are a neurological problem with the function of the back of the brain.  These headaches usually start around the mid 20’s but can appear at any age.  They can be more difficult to treat than regular migraines, and usually need migraine medication and separate medication to address the vertigo.

No matter what age you are, if you are experiencing the symptoms in this article, talk to your doctor as soon as possible or find a specialist who can help you.


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New Headache Reliever Treatment Band

Written by AnaLise on October 23, 2008 – 3:42 pm -

If you have ever suffered a migraine headache, you know that you would probably try almost anything – even a hammer – to make it stop.  I have had some whopper migraines in my day.  The ones where you end up at the ER at midnight on Saturday after trying to do everything to avoid it.  Medication.  Dark room.  Shhhh! Quiet.  Coke or Pepsi.  Mountain Dew if it’s really bad.  Feverfew.  Aromatherapy.  And by midnight, you are in the ER willing to let the doctor do anything or give you anything – even poison – to just simply make the pain stop.

There is a new treatment on the market now and it’s called The Headache Reliever.  The Headache Reliever was created by Dr. Stephen Landy of Memphis, TN and Brand Griffin of Huntsville, AL.  Dr. Landy, who is a board-certified neurologist and Clinical Professor at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine, invented the The Headache Reliever after seeing many patients with headaches use pain medication, but then having to supplement the medication with other home remedies.  One of the remedies that he saw over and over was that people would use heat wraps and cold wraps to help relax the muscles and/or numb the pain. 

The Headache Reliever has been clinically proven to help relieve migraines without drugs by using a pressure band that helps compress blood vessels, reusable, microwavable hot packs to relax muscles and reusable freezer packs that constrict blood vessels.  Since all three of these are issues in most migraines, it is logical that one device is able to address all three.  To date, there are hot packs, cold packs and other aids; however none of them are packaged together – especially with a pressure band for compression. 

The company that Dr. Landy and Brand Griffin, who is a spaceship designer by profession, have founded to create and market The Headache Reliever is AbsolutelyNew, Inc., and is headquartered in San Francisco.  They will release The Headache Reliever for sale early in 2009.

As a migraine sufferer, I look forward to a drug-free, non ER method of migraine relief, and it seems logical that The Headache Reliever will be a huge tool to keep migraines at bay or eliminate them once they have started.  Hooray!


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Heart Condition Causes High Percentage of Migraines

Written by AnaLise on October 16, 2008 – 4:00 pm -

As researchers have looked for more clues about the causes of migraine headaches, they have found much information that has moved treatment forward, helping thousands of sufferers of this debilitating condition to feel better.

There are also many medications, natural remedies and other treatments for migraines that have become tested and available, especially during the past few years.  Migraines are not a “one size fits all” situation.  Symptoms may be similar – or even the same – for many sufferers, but treatment of those symptoms varies from individual to individual.

The latest research about migraines has found that about 66% of migraine sufferers have a condition called PFO which is a hole in the heart or a right to left shunt.  What this means is that blood flow which would normally be filtered through the lungs actually bypasses them, most likely contributing significantly to migraine headache pain.

About 25% of the overall population has PFO’s, but not all of them are affected and not all of them have migraine headaches.  The research, performed by Dr. Stephen Silberstein at Jefferson Headache Center at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, shows, however, that though it has been thought that this link existed between PFO and migraines for some time now, but this definitive study gives a clear connection.

As a result of the study, Dr. Silberstein feels that the strong connection between PFO/RFL’s and chronic migraine is a definite possibility.  He has stated that if the next phase of study confirms this fact even further, there will be a straightforward way to help those individuals whose migraines are connected to this problem.  The fairly simple way to stop the chronic migraine pain would be to close PFO defects.

This may be a positive answer to the problems for more migraine sufferers who have been asking questions and seeking relief for too long.


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New Clues for Migraine Sufferers

Written by AnaLise on October 16, 2008 – 3:58 pm -

The common conception regarding migraine headaches is that people know their migraine is coming on during the aura – sometimes a few minutes or a few hours before the migraine itself actually hits.  Usually during the aura a person will have visual disturbances such as seeing flashes of light, seeing spots and other odd visual issues.  In addition during aura, a person will often feel nauseated and possibly light headed.  If medication or other remedies or relief steps are taken during the aura – especially as close to the beginning as possible – there is a higher possibility that the migraine will never fully develop and the symptoms will subside.

Researchers have now found that it is often possible to receive and recognize clues about migraines 24 to 36 hours in advance or more.  This period, called the prodome, includes symptoms including a warped sense of smell or taste.  Dr. Allen Bernstein, a neurologist in Northern California, says that it is “like a truck coming down the road.  If you hit the brakes fast enough, you can stop it.”

Bernstein’s research has shown that some people start to throw food out, feeling that it smells bad.  Others have gone on a cleaning binge thinking that everything smells like mold.  When tracking how long before the migraine this happened, it was usually within the 24 to 36 hour window before the migraine headache appeared. 

Dr. Bernstein has presented his findings to the American Headache Society and the International Neuropsychological Society.  He usually treats individuals whose migraines disrupt their lives to the degree that they have to miss work repeatedly, miss plane flights due to nausea and vomiting from the headache, and other serious migraine issues.  He says that the hardest thing in diagnosing and treating individuals is to help them look backward 24 to 36 hours and remember what was happening that could be a clue for the future migraines they might experience. 

Dr. Bernstein feels that though a lot of progress has been made in the treatment of migraines, the ability to help individuals see the onset of the migraine 24 hours in advance and use the medication or other remedy at that time will often eliminate the migraine altogether.  He says that his goal is to “teach people to be their own best observer.”


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Migraines Can Affect Anyone

Written by AnaLise on October 16, 2008 – 3:55 pm -

 

If you suffer from migraines, even on a day that’s not your worst; a migraine can be totally unbearable.  It’s not just the headache itself – that’s bad enough – it’s the plethora of symptoms that accompany a migraine and the debilitating extent to which they basically disable you.

The aura that comes with many people’s migraines involves visual disturbances such as flashes of light and spots before your eyes, nausea, lightheadedness and more.  Then, there’s the headache itself – usually more painful on one side of the head than the other – which causes a person the need to lie down in a dark, quiet room without disturbance for however long as necessary.

Those who have ever had migraines know exactly what we are talking about.  Those who have not had migraines – hopefully you will not experience them. 

Migraines can get to anyone.  If you are a schoolteacher or a roofer it doesn’t matter – migraines can keep you from being able to work.  No matter what your occupation is, it is impossible for most people with migraines to be able to work during a bad one.  If you think you can, imagine a migraine on a rooftop if you are a roofer.  Not a good recipe. 

Lately there have been stories in the news about celebrities and others who have had migraines interrupt their work.  Janet Jackson, who has suffered from headaches since she was a small child, has had to cancel several concerts on her current tour lately.  They couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but she kept getting symptoms of vertigo plus severe headaches.  I can’t imagine jumping around a stage, bright lights, dancing, singing, fans screaming with vertigo and a migraine.  The doctors determined that she has a rare form of migraines that cause the vertigo.  She is now undergoing treatment which is successful so far.

A pastor in Bellingham, Washington just had to quit his job after 11 years because his migraines were too overwhelming for him to adequately do his work.  Children – especially teens – are fighting symptoms of migraines which often keep them from doing their school work.  It used to be thought that kids don’t get migraines, but research has proven that this is not true.  Kids and teens do get migraines.

There are more treatments now than ever before.  If you suffer from migraines, talk to your doctor about treatment.  If you are not satisfied, get a referral to a neurologist who specializes in migraine treatment.  You do not have to suffer alone, and you may not have to suffer at all.


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Facts You Should Know About Headaches

Written by AnaLise on October 9, 2008 – 3:23 pm -

If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines there is help available.  The first line of defense should be your doctor.  If your doctor is unable to diagnose and treat your headaches successfully, there are doctors who specialize in the treatment of headaches especially migraines.

In addition to going to the doctors, there is other support available.  One organization that dispenses information and advocates for funding for headache research is the Alliance For Headache Disorder Advocacy (AHDA).    Most recently they have been strongly encouraging the National Institutes of Health to fund more studies as to the causes and treatment for migraines and other severe headaches.  Nearly 80% of all districts in the United States have at least one advocate receiving and sharing information with AHDA.

Some information from the AHDA website that they feel is important for you to know includes these points:

• Headache disorders cause more than 1 percent of all disability and 9 percent of all lost labor in the US every year.
• Migraine alone is the 12th most disabling disorder in the US.
• Headache disorders are the most prevalent neurological disorders, affecting more than 90% of all Americans.
• The US annual direct and indirect economic costs of headache disorders exceed $31 billion.
• The NIH expended less than $10 million in 2006 towards all research on headache disorders, comprising less than 0.05 percent of its total budget.
There are other important facts about headaches, but these are striking, since migraines have been a debilitating disorder for decades and have become extremely widespread.  In addition, migraines are often linked to other disorders and diseases including aneurism, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and reactions to food, drinks and other substances, including medication.  They can also be signs of further disease and if untreated have been fatal in some cases.
If you suffer from migraines, find help and support.  If you need further information contact the AHDA at www.allianceforheadacheadvocacy.org.
 


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Inventor Creates New Migraine Tool

Written by AnaLise on October 9, 2008 – 3:21 pm -

There have been thousands of ideas about how to stop migraine headaches – or at least make them bearable.  Some of these ideas work and some, of course, don’t work.  Sometimes, even the most outlandish of the ideas has the ability to help relieve the suffering from migraines.

There is a new tool being tested that seems to have the ability to actually stop a migraine headache before it completely starts.  Many migraine headaches start with what is called “aura” which is when a person feels light headed, sees spots or other visual disturbances.  This is what happened to Dr. Robert Fischell, who is also the inventor of the first implantable insulin pump, the rechargeable pacemaker and various coronary stents.

Dr. Fischell experienced an aura one day out of the blue.  He had never had anything like this happen before, and he says that it scared him to death because he thought he was about to have a stroke.  The interesting thing is that after the aura, nothing happened – there was no migraine that followed.  Nonetheless, it got Dr. Fischell thinking about what causes aura and migraines, and what can be done to stop the aura so that the migraine never materializes.

After extensive research, Dr. Fischell created a box that has two handles – one on each side.  When an aura happens it is because the brain is experiencing a neurological disturbance where the nerves misfire.  The occipital cortex, an area at the back of the head, is usually the area involved in the misfiring.  The box that Dr. Fischell created is placed at the back of the head, where the auras begin, and a trigger on the device emits two magnetic pulses 15 seconds apart.  This silences the nerve activity and shuts down the aura, thus stopping the migraine before it actually starts.

The device – called Neuralieve Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) –  has been tested on enough people that Dr. Fischell has applied to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be able to begin selling it as soon as early next year.

This is a huge advance toward the treatment of migraines.  Since it is non-invasive and involves no medication, there are definite plusses.  Of course, not all treatments work for all people.  The doctor is confident enough about the device that he is considering having people use it and if it doesn’t work for them, send it back and he will refund their money minus a small refurbishing fee. 

Hopefully he will get FDA approval and people will be able to try the device and see if there truly is a new and different way to eliminate migraines.
 


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