Find Relief by Identifying Your Triggers

Written by AnaLise on August 28, 2008 – 4:15 pm -

If you suffer from migraine headaches – even infrequently – you probably know how painful and overwhelming they can be.  They can ruin your whole day, or ruin a few days, not to mention, having you feel as though your head were in a vice or worse.  In addition to feeling like one’s head is in a vice, many migraine sufferers have described the pain accompanying a migraine as anything from a knife stabbing the brain, a hot fireplace poker, pressure like that of a trash compactor.

Migraines are seriously painful and debilitating.  They are often accompanied by other symptoms including nausea and sensitivity to light, and are not always able to be controlled or overcome without prescription medication of one type or another.

The good news for individuals who suffer from migraines is that there are numerous medications available that can help.  In addition, many of the medications work in different ways so that once the proper medication is found for you, it will address the triggers in the way that your body needs them to.

Migraine treatment has come a long way during the past two decades.  Where there used to be only one or two choices of medication and those medications either worked or they didn’t, there are choices that include medication and other methods of calming the symptoms of a migraine episode.

One important area that individuals who suffer migraines need to look at is what triggers them.  Researchers and health professionals urge individuals to try to avoid migraines rather than figure out a way to treat them and cope with them.

Some triggers include food and beverages, odors or reactions to other medications or medical conditions.  It is important for migraine sufferers to chart their migraine episodes to track what as happening leading up to the migraine.  For instance, if a migraine happens after a meal, write down how long it was after the meal before the onset of the migraine and write down everything you had to eat or drink.  Keep a diary of your migraines and chart every one you have.  You will likely begin to see foods or beverages that come up repetitively.  These are your likely triggers and by eliminating them, your migraines may be eliminated.

Another essential tool in determining the cause of migraines is to look at other factors that might be present.  Tracking non-food triggers is important.  Keep a diary of your migraines and be sure to include triggers such as stress, smoking and other factors.  Did you have an argument or a stressful day at work before a migraine?  Are you trying to quit smoking?  Did you just have a cigarette?  Are you supposed to wear glasses, but had not been wearing them?  Were you in front of the computer or television for a long period of time before the onset?

Some of these simple questions can afford you the relief you are searching for.  Some migraines can be controlled or avoided by determining their triggers.

If you suffer from migraines, keep a diary for a month or more and look for your personal triggers.  By controlling the triggers that cause your migraines, you may be able to eliminate these unwanted headaches altogether.

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Migraines May Be Linked to Brain Damage

Written by AnaLise on August 28, 2008 – 4:13 pm -

Individuals who suffer from migraine headaches know how debilitating they can be.  Migraines are usually accompanied by severe nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and terrible pain.  The symptoms can be so overwhelming and painful that one part of the way people deal with migraines is to tuck themselves away in a dark, quiet room and wait for the migraine to pass.

Recently research has yielded more information regarding connections between migraines and serious health issues, especially in women.  One of the most serious health issues now associated with migraines is that of stroke and brain hemorrhaging or aneurysm. 

Researchers have discovered that recurrent migraines that women have are a strong signal or a warning that the woman may be in danger of stroke. 

In addition to what studies have already shown about migraines, new information has been discovered about a link between migraines and progressive brain damage.  Studies were conducted in the Netherlands to determine if there was a connection between migraine headaches and brain damage of any type or severity.

Two groups of women were studied.  Researchers compared the brains of the women who did not suffer from migraines to the women who regularly suffered from migraines.  After having MRIs done for both groups of women, researchers found that the women who suffered from migraines showed abnormalities in several regions of the brain.  Women who had the worst or most extensive abnormalities of the brain were those who had suffered from migraines for many years, usually fifteen years or more.

Follow up studies are planned to study the brain before, during and after a migraine episode to determine what is actually happening to the brain itself in real time. 

These studies could show whether migraines are just severe and debilitating headaches or actually a type of progressive brain disease.


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Treating Migraines As a Serious Disorder

Written by AnaLise on August 28, 2008 – 4:11 pm -

Migraines are not just “women’s” headaches any more.  Where it used to be said that women who suffer from migraines are just “overreacting” or “being too dramatic”, migraines are now being taken much more seriously.

Studies have revealed that though a higher percentage of women experience migraines, men also experience them and they are just as debilitating.  Additional studies have identified migraines suffered by children and research is being conducted regarding the implications of all types of migraines suffered regardless of age or gender.

Studies in Pakistan have recently revealed that rather than being severe headaches, migraines are responsible for triggering “mini-strokes” in some sufferers.  These findings strongly suggest that rather than migraines being episodic, they are actually part of a larger, ongoing issue which progresses until the sufferer actually experiences a major stroke.

The link between migraines and stroke is especially strong for individuals who experience migraine aura which includes seeing light flashes, spots, or other symptoms that accompany the onset of a migraine. 

Neurologists worry that migraines are being treated as individual episodes rather than an ongoing chronic and progressive disorder.  As a result, these mini strokes are going unnoticed and untreated until they result in a major stroke.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City have determined that those at most risk for mini strokes are migraine sufferers who experience frequent migraines.  Women were also found to be more at risk than men.  Reducing the frequency of migraines can reduce the likelihood of strokes.

Since strokes are twice as likely in individuals who suffer from migraines than those who do not, it is important to find viable ways to control the amount and frequency of migraines suffered.  Studies suggest that isolating the muscles involved in migraines and treating them with Botox, thus freezing them and making them unable to contract, or, if necessary, removing them through surgery, can be one approach to help migraine sufferers avoid eventually experiencing a major stroke.  Other ways to treat or eliminate the problem are being explored. 

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Simple Steps to Combat Migraines

Written by AnaLise on August 21, 2008 – 6:46 pm -

It is estimated that 45 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches and most of them are looking for treatment that brings them relief.  Having suffered from a few of these headaches myself, I can remember being willing to endure almost any treatment and try almost any suggestion just to get the pain, nausea and other symptoms to stop.  I even found myself in the emergency room several times because the pain was so bad.

Over time, I learned that there are things that we can do to help manage migraines and some of them have to do with lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, managing stress, getting some exercise and avoiding certain food triggers can go a long way toward relieving the severity, intensity and/or frequency of migraines.

Sleep is necessary to keep us functioning well.  According to the Better Sleep Council, 65% of Americans lose sleep due to stress, which also happens to be a trigger for migraines.  It is important to determine the best bedtime for you so that you can get 7 to 9 hours of sleep most nights, if not every night.  It is important to be as regular about this as possible so that your body develops a wake-sleep cycle that works and helps to avoid migraines and other health issues.

Controlling tension headaches before they become migraines is essential.  Usually, with a tension headache, the muscles in the neck, head and scalp tighten and feel like there is pressure around the head.  Because these headaches are usually brought on by stress, controlling stress levels is an important part of controlling headaches.  Deep breathing, removing yourself from the task at hand for 5 to 10 minutes if possible and learning how to deal with stressful situations in a positive way can help.  Talk to your healthcare provider about your individual situation if you have been under stress and are having trouble controlling it.

Getting exercise can also help control headaches because exercise makes the muscles more flexible.  As a result, they will not tighten as quickly or severely, which can eliminate this source of headaches.  In addition, exercise helps control other health issues that could contribute to migraines.  Exercising can lower blood pressure – a major culprit in migraines – and help keep the cardiovascular system working properly.

By incorporating these few steps into your life it can minimize the effect that migraines have.  It may still be necessary to take some medication, and you will still probably experience some of these debilitating headaches, but they should be fewer, further between and less painful.

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Migraine Relief Different for Each Person

Written by AnaLise on August 21, 2008 – 6:42 pm -

Anyone who has suffered from migraine headaches will tell you that they would try anything at least once to get rid of a migraine when it occurs.  Migraine headaches are often debilitating and the pain and other symptoms are overwhelming.

Major symptoms include nausea, sensitivity to noise and light plus severe pain on one side of the head or the other.  There are other symptoms as well, and they vary from individual to individual.

Because migraine headaches and their causes are unique to each person, so are the remedies.  In the past, there were one or two migraine medications available but most people had to come up with their own way to relieve the headaches, or they had to go to the doctor or the emergency room to get help and relief.

These days there are many more medications available.  Some work better than others, and this, too is an area that is unique to the individual.  It is similar to any other medical issue where medication is used – sometimes you and your doctor need to try a few medications before you find a good fit.

In addition to medication, there are a number of different methods of relief that have been reported to doctors.  Some of them have no sound medical basis, but people report that they have worked for them.  Some people have reported that exercise helped relieve their migraines, while others say that exercise simply made the nasty headaches worse.  Others report everything from music to herbal tea, acupuncture, acupressure and massage have stopped migraines.  Still others have reported that ice packs or heating pads have worked, as well as, finding that meditation, yoga, tai-chi, herbal supplements, aromatherapy, swimming, chiropractic care and physical therapy have successfully relieved their migraines. 

If you are suffering from migraines – especially recurring ones – see your doctor to determine if there are any specific physical or neurological causes.  There are probably medications that your doctor can prescribe depending on your unique situation.  If you are not comfortable taking medications, try some of the suggestions above and see if they help.  You never know where you can find relief from your migraines, and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

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Migraines and the Military

Written by AnaLise on August 21, 2008 – 6:38 pm -

Nearly 8% of all men and 12% of all women in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.  Most migraine sufferers have gone to the doctor and gotten some sort of medication – usually triptans – to subdue these headaches.
Some migraine sufferers use natural or holistic methods to control migraines, and others use a combination of medication and other methods to keep their migraines to a minimum.

Individuals in the military are no exception.  They get migraines right along with the rest of the nation and they need ways to deal with these debilitating headaches.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to get as much help as the general public when it comes to relieving migraine symptoms.

Recently results of a retroactive study were released involving soldiers returning from Iraq.  The study focused on soldiers with migraines and the treatment that was afforded them.  The results were somewhat surprising and disappointing.

Over 2700 soldiers were screened.  19% (518) had migraine headaches during their tour of duty.  Another 17.5% (476) met the criteria for probable migraines.  This combines to show over 36% of the troops in the study suffered from migraines, which is a number 3 times the amount of the general population.

There are many obvious reasons for this number, though the percentage was not expected to be nearly that high.  Lack of proper, comfortable, uninterrupted sleep is one reason for the higher percentage.  Sleep problems are a huge trigger for migraines, and these are built into a combat soldier’s life.  In addition, extreme heat, chemical fumes, dehydration, pressures in aircraft, and disruptive meal patterns were cited.  The heat in their uniforms alone was also considered a trigger.

These triggers are not surprises.  What was a surprise to researchers was that these migraine headaches were not controlled by triptans, which are the most common medications to prevent and treat migraines.  Of all organizations, the military has access to any medications it needs, and to leave individuals suffering with little or no relief when relief is easily available is not only unfair and unkind, but negligent.   Triptans not only treat migraines by stopping them at the first sign of the headaches, but also by being used on a regular basis to avoid and eliminate migraines.  This means that many of the soldiers who experienced migraines in Iraq (or other places) could have avoided the suffering from a migraine or from migraines that they were having regularly by taking the medication to prevent them.

The United States expects a great deal of its military men and women, especially right now with troops in the Middle East and elsewhere.  It is not unreasonable to expect that the country should take care of the individuals who are called to serve by simply providing them with the medical care that they need. 

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Migraines Can Be Helped By Birth Control Pills

Written by AnaLise on August 15, 2008 – 8:29 am -

If you are a woman who gets migraine headaches that are coupled with getting your period, there is new information and hope for you.

Researches have determined that migraines from menstrual periods can be reduced, and possibly eliminated, through the use of oral contraceptives combined with other medications.  Scott and White is the company that has done the research, and they are recruiting women who have migraines associated with their periods for an eight month study.

Migraines associated with periods are more common than is widely known.  About 10% of women get these debilitating headaches during their periods, and this amounts to around 10 to 15 million women who are suffering.   Because hormones fluctuate a lot during this time, it is thought that this brings on migraines. 

Frovatriptan has been used to fight migraines once they have started, however, research is showing that this medication – before migraines start – combined with continuous oral birth control can control or eliminate these migraines.  This medication also reduces nausea and sensitivity to light that often accompanies migraines.

Dr. Patricia Sulak, an obstetrician/gynecologist and researcher for Scott and White states, “By activating certain receptors in the brain, altering neurochemistry and dilating blood vessels during a migraine, we may better control the severity of these headaches.  We are investigating how effective using a contraceptive pill may be to provide some relief these women.”

The idea behind the study is to use Frovatriptan before and during a woman’s period and possibly during other critical times, while keeping a woman on birth control pills continuously.  There is evidence that this will reduce the severity and frequency of the headaches.

This should be great news for women who suffer from this type of headache.

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Warning About Migraine Medication Interactions

Written by AnaLise on August 15, 2008 – 8:24 am -

Triptans are often used to treat migraine headaches.  They reduce pain, as well as easing the nausea, sensitivity to light and motion, and other symptoms that often accompany migraines. 

Triptans work in about 60% of the people who use them.  Though they do not necessarily eliminate migraines, they certainly provide a lot of relief, usually within a couple of hours.  They actually provide more relief, as many migraine medications do, if taken upon the first symptoms of the onset of a migraine headache.

Triptans are usually quite expensive – somewhere between $21-$25 per pill.  There are only 7 triptans available, and none are offered in generic form at this time. 

There are, however, individuals who should be very careful taking triptans or not take them at all.  People – especially men over 40 and women over 50 – who have high cholesterol, diabetes, history of cardiovascular issues such as heart disease or stroke, or are overweight, should most likely not take triptans.  This also includes people with coronary artery disease and/or angina, as triptans can cause damage to the heart. 

Another warning about migraine interactions comes to those who take antidepressants.  There are a number of antidepressants that have adverse interactions and reactions to triptans.  If you are taking an antidepressant and you suffer from migraines do not take triptans unless and until your doctor and/or pharmacist determine that the antidepressant you are taking will not interact adversely with the triptan.  If there is the possibility of an adverse reaction or interaction, do not be dismayed.  There are other medications that can help you without this type of harmful effect.

Migraines are serious and debilitating.  There are, however, a number of different medications as well as other treatments that can ease your pain.  Talk to your doctor about the ways to control or eliminate your migraine headaches.

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More Information on Migraine Link to Serious Disease

Written by AnaLise on August 15, 2008 – 8:19 am -

There have been many reports of the link between migraine headaches and other health problems.  We can look at this information in a negative way or we can look at it as a warning and a way to take steps to deal with the issue.  As they say, forewarned is fore armed.

Studies have revealed that individuals who suffer from migraines are more susceptible to other serious diseases.  Of course, the main condition that migraine sufferers are susceptible to is stroke.  The risk of stroke in migraine sufferers is more than double that of individuals without migraines.  The risk in females is even higher. 

In fact, women who suffer from migraines about once per week are three times more likely to suffer a stroke than women who do not get migraines.  The study that determined these results included over 27,000 women over 45 years old, who were tracked for over 12 years.

There are many questions about migraines and their causes.  Experts agree that migraines are related to a malfunction of the blood vessels, neurotransmitters and nerves in the brain.  They are usually a long term health issue and can occur frequently, such as a few days per week or as infrequently as annually. 

Studies have shown that women are twice as likely to experience a migraine just before or during their menstrual period.  Pain killers and other migraine medication can help subdue migraines, however, there can be some nasty side effects, such as worse nausea and other effects.

Importantly, many migraine sufferers have low magnesium, so using magnesium can be helpful in eliminating or controlling them.  Taking a supplement  and eating dark green leafy vegetables, which are high in magnesium can be used to prevent or treat migraines.  Adding vitamin B12 can help as well.  Getting about 400 mg. per day of both might eliminate the migraines totally.  Another study showed that migraine sufferers who took feverfew (an herb) on a regular basis saw a substantial reduction in the number of migraines they experienced, as well as their severity.

None of these can necessarily cure migraines, but most of us who have suffered from them are happy to find relief when we can.  In addition, with the link between migraines and serious disease, such as stroke, finding ways to combat these headaches now can lead to long term health benefits.

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Migraines Without Insurance

Written by AnaLise on August 5, 2008 – 6:25 pm -

If you are a migraine sufferer or close to someone who is, you know how debilitating migraines can be.   You may or may not know that many over the counter medications – even the ones for migraines – can make the migraines worse because the way they work on the blood vessels in the head does the opposite of what is needed to stop a migraine.

The best alternatives to over the counter medications are prescription medications that are specifically designed to combat migraines.  There are a number of migraine medications on the market now and they work on specific symptoms of migraines.  Most of these medications work relatively quickly, especially when taken at the beginning of a migraine, as opposed to waiting until a migraine is full blown.

All of this is good and is essential in managing migraines – as long as you have insurance or, if you have no insurance, as long as you can afford these medications. 

For example, one of the top migraine medications is Imitrex.  Imitrex came out about 12 years ago and cost $8.95 per tablet.  If that wasn’t bad enough, Imitrex now costs about $19 per tablet.  It is interesting that as more and more people have used the medication, its cost has gone up, not down.  With the economic situation the way it is, and with so many people who do not have insurance, what to people do to deal with migraines if they cannot afford the Imitrex?

Some of them suffer – keeping them off work and costing more money which affects the economy, or they go to the emergency room, a more expensive solution to the problem, which will bring relief to the pain and help make the medical crisis in this country worse because the ER has to take people no matter whether they have insurance or not.  This means that f the person can’t pay for the ER services; the hospital – and the medical system – has to absorb the cost, thus making the deficits larger and driving costs up.  So, instead of paying for a $19 pill, the migraine sufferer has now dealt with a hospital visit for somewhere between $300 to $600.

What is the solution?  Hopefully the drug companies will get realistic about the cost of medication.  Migraines are not a small issue.  They can lead to stroke, coma, heart attacks, and, in some cases, death.  Drug companies need to be more responsible in making migraine medication available at a more reasonable cost so that they are not contributing to the suffering of millions of people and the deficits in the medical and hospital system.

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Migraines are not a Myth

Written by AnaLise on August 5, 2008 – 6:22 pm -

There are many myths surrounding migraines, and there are too many people who either don’t understand them or make light of them, leaving migraine sufferers in situations where they are in extreme debilitating pain and misunderstood, as well.

If you have ever known someone who suffers from migraines, you have probably seen them nauseated, in pain, needing to be in a dark and quiet place, sensitive to smells and seeing flashes of light.  These are just a few of the real symptoms that accompany migraines.

The reality is that migraines are a physiological and biological event affecting the blood vessels in the head.  The problem is that too many doctors and well meaning friends and family members brush off individuals who suffer from migraines by telling them that they need to try not to “stress out” so much, or they need to get help for their depression among other things.

Unfortunately, since stress and depression are not the actual causes of migraines, individuals who are trying to deal with migraines are often misdiagnosed and put on medication that is not proper for them.  In fact, the wrong medication can often make migraines even worse.  Aside from this problem, if migraines are not treated properly, it has been proven that this could lead to stroke, heart attack, permanent visual problems and even sending the person into a coma.

Migraines are a real disease.  They have been proven to be genetic, and it is now known that if one parent of a person has had migraines, the person has a 50% chance of suffering from migraines, as well. 

It has also been proven that there are various triggers for migraines.  Some are triggers that can be controlled, such as certain foods like chocolate, nuts and red wine or hard alcohol and cigarettes.  Other triggers cannot be controlled, such as a rise or fall in barometric pressure, humidity, hormone levels and more.

If you have suffered from migraines and have not found a doctor that is diagnosing and treating them correctly or is not taking you seriously, keep looking and don’t give up.  Migraines are real health problems and need to be treated.

There is help at

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New Link between Migraine and Stroke

Written by AnaLise on August 5, 2008 – 6:20 pm -

There is more research and newer information regarding migraine headaches and their causes and treatment as of late.  One of the latest studies has found a link between migraine headaches with aura and a particular gene, leading to a higher risk of stroke in many women.

The interesting part of this discovery is that researchers found that the same gene lowers the risk of migraines with aura.  If this sounds confusing, here is how it works. 

A migraine with aura is a migraine that comes on with an “aura” which includes flashing light and other visual disturbances.  This latest study has found that a particular gene MTHFR 677C keeps women from getting migraines with aura, however, if a woman has this gene and goes on to get migraines with aura anyway, her risk of having a stroke is higher than the average woman.

The study, through Harvard School of Medicine, watched 25,000 white women over 12 years, and found that 18% or 4,600 of them had migraines with aura, and of those, over 625 of the women had a cardiovascular issue such as a stroke.  When the researchers went back to see which of the women had the MTHFR 677C gene, they found that 11% of the women carried the gene.

If the gene is found alone, it does not seem to raise the risk of stroke, however in women who have a history of migraine with aura, the risk of stroke or other cardiovascular disease is raised by three times. 

Researchers are still trying to find the exact gene and figure out exactly what it does and whether it is the direct cause or an ancillary cause of stroke or other cardiovascular event.  Meanwhile, researchers recommend that women who have migraines with aura do not smoke and use alternatives to birth control pills. 

The bottom line is that if you are a woman who suffers from migraines with aura, it is important that you remain very careful about your health to avoid having a cardiovascular event or a stroke.

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