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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Blame it on Your Parents

Written by AnaLise on July 17, 2008 – 7:11 pm -

We have blamed a million things on our parents – some of them logical and actually deserving of being blamed upon them – and others, well, you know the drill.  There are the typical issues such as hereditary baldness, flat feet, eye color, hair color, pudginess and more.

Then there are those other things.  You were too strict.  You weren’t strict enough.  You liked my sister or brother better. 

Now researchers have found yet another thing that can be legitimately blamed on our parents – migraine headaches.  If a person has a family history of migraines, it is more likely that they will end up battling migraines themselves.  The extent to which this is true depends on a couple of factors.  If both of your parents suffered from migraine headaches, you have a higher probability of having to deal with them as well.  If only one of your parents was afflicted by these debilitating and painful headaches, your risk of having migraines is increased compared to the general population but it is not as high as it would be if both your parents had them – especially on a semi-regular basis.

As for other factors for migraines, guess what ladies…Yes, women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men are.  If you are a relatively young women, your chances of having migraines are higher still.  Interestingly, during their earlier years, boys and girls get headaches somewhat equally, but with the onset of puberty, young women’s amounts of headaches increase, most likely having to do with hormone issues.

The good news for all migraine sufferers is that, unlike treatment that was available for our parents, there are more types of effective treatments and medications readily available today than ever before.  Regardless of whether we blame migraines on our parents along with everything else or just try to deal with them and not place blame, at least we have options that previous generations did not have.  Besides, we have On-Star Navigational Systems, Costco and ColdStone ice cream.  That’s got to be worth something!


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Electronic Help For Migraines

Written by AnaLise on July 17, 2008 – 7:07 pm -

Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center have been looking at an electronic device called a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) to stop migraines before they become full-blown. 

The TMS device work by interrupting a migraine and eliminating migraine pain and other symptoms if the device is used at the earliest stage of the migraine.  Many people who suffer from migraines describe having an “aura” before their migraine starts.  The aura which has been described as a sort of electrical storm in the brain causing the sufferer to see visions such as zigzags and shooting stars, flashes of light, spots, weakness or tingling in the body, usually signals the onset of a migraine.

The TMS, if used at the beginning of the aura has successfully prevented the migraine from progressing any further and has eliminated the symptoms already present.  The study at Ohio State involved 164 individuals.  39% of these individuals reported being symptom and pain free two hours after the TMS was used on them to treat migraine symptoms.

The TMS works by sending a magnetic impulse through a metal coil which then creates a very intense magnetic field.  When the magnetic pulse is held near the person’s head, the migraine aura is interrupted.  By using the TMS in this way, migraine headaches can be stopped before they really get going in many people, eliminating the need for medication in the situations where the TMS works well for the individual.

In the past, studies were conducted on a similar machine, however, it was large and difficult to handle.  The TMS is much more compact and user-friendly, and it can be used at home, at the office or in transit.  In addition, since there were no adverse reactions reported in the Ohio State Study, this brings hope that many migraine sufferers will be able to be treated without medication in the near future. 


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