Migraines that Control Your Life

Written by AnaLise on September 25, 2008 – 6:42 am -

I talked to someone recently who described their headaches to me.  These were no ordinary headaches.  The headaches were so bad that everything hurt.  She told me that her face sometimes hurt so badly during those headaches that she wished she could pull her teeth out.  One at a time.

There are so many millions of people who suffer from migraine headaches that this has become a major epidemic.  Researchers are working constantly to find effective treatment for these migraines, and still some people suffer without end.
At least research has found some effective ways to manage the pain even though there is no cure for migraines. 

Part of the problem is that most people do not understand migraines.  The person who spoke to me about migraines said that she was frustrated about this fact.  If she could, she would have every person have at least one migraine headache in their lifetime.  This way they would be able to understand how debilitating these headaches are and not make light of them.

Many people get their first migraine before they even reach their teens.  Many doctors have said for a long time that children don’t get migraines.  Recent research has revealed that indeed, some children do have migraines, and often they are the beginning of a regular syndrome. 

In addition, quite often, individuals who suffer from migraine headaches have a genetic predisposition to them because their parent – usually their mother – had them as well. 

Once my friend found a medication or two that worked, she was able to resume her regular career and social life.  Sometimes she gets a bad migraine in the middle of the night and has to take medication to stop the pain and other symptoms. 

There are more options now than ever before when it comes to migraines. If you suffer from migraines there is help available.  Find a medical professional who specializes in pain control or migraines and can help.  You can also contact the National Migraine Association at www.migraines.org.

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Migraine Prevention That Causes Weight Loss

Written by AnaLise on September 25, 2008 – 6:40 am -

Migraine headaches are bad enough without some of the medication and treatment that people have to undergo.  Migraines are debilitating and often create pounding in the head, extreme nausea and sensitivity to light, among other symptoms. 


Too often, people who suffer from migraines become experiments for medical practitioners who are trying to figure out what medications might be the best.  Some medications used to treat migraine headaches include Depakote (also used for bi-polar disease), as well as tricyclic anti-depressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline) and Pamelor (nortriptyline). 


These medications often help people get their migraines under control, however, as with many medications, there are side effects.  One of the most difficult side-effects for people with migraines to deal with is weight gain.  So, in addition to the migraines themselves and the chance that the medication may or may not work, you have the opportunity to gain an average of 40 or maybe 50 pounds if you take some of these medications on a regular basis to control the migraines.


There is one saving grace however.  There is one medication that not only works well, but also will help you lose weight, rather than gain it.  The drug Topamax (topiramate), which is approved and used for epilepsy, can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also reduce their severity. 


Nearly 470 patients – mostly women – in Nashville, Tennessee, who suffered from chronic migraine headaches, were studied for over 6 months, saw their migraines drop from an average of 6 per month to an average of 3.5 migraines per month.  The women who took Topamax for their migraines lost about 3% to 4% of their body weight – one wonderful side effect of the medication for migraines. 


If you suffer from migraines and are still looking for medication that can help as well as possibly help you lose weight, ask about topiramate and see what happens.  

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Confusing Migraines for Other Problems

Written by AnaLise on September 25, 2008 – 6:37 am -

There are a lot of myths surrounding migraine headaches.  It used to be that doctors didn’t believe they were real – they were a figment of your imagination, especially if they were suffered by women.

There were also many ideas about what to do to help relieve the symptoms of these debilitating headaches.  There was ice, aspirin, and a few other ideas, including somehow trying to get some sleep.  Of course, usually the doctors that suggested these ideas probably never had a migraine headache themselves.

Some of the health issues that migraines are confused for are eye problems, for one.  Sometimes eye problems cause headaches, and often, the misdiagnosis results in the individual getting glasses only to find that the headaches continue.

There’s always the old “it’s just a sinus headache” answer.  People talk about sinus problems and allergies as the cause for the headaches, but even with the normal sinus remedies, the headaches still persist.

Hormones are also another easy thing to blame for migraines.  Sometimes they are part of the cause of headaches, however, when hormones are erroneously blamed for migraines, not only are the migraines not eliminated with hormone treatment, but, in addition, the hormone treatment can do harm – long lasting harm – to the body.

Additionally, the fact that a person is under stress is often singled out as the cause of a migraine.  Often, medication is prescribed and may take the edge off; however, usually the headaches do not stop.

As a result of all of the misconceptions migraines can often continue, increase in frequency and worsen over time.  Ignoring the debilitating headaches is not a good option.  If you find yourself at the point where your routine is disrupted on a regular basis or you can’t stand the pain any longer, it’s time to get help from a professional who is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of migraine headaches.

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Regence Won’t Cover Botox for Migraine Relief

Written by AnaLise on September 18, 2008 – 5:47 pm -

For many migraine sufferers Botox is the last possible chance for relief.  When they have suffered migraine after migraine and tried treatment or medication of every type without finding relief for their debilitating symptoms, some migraine sufferers turn to Botox.

This is not a decision made lightly.  For one thing, there has to be approval by the insurance company along with proof that the person has tried just about everything else without success or relief.  For another thing, a Botox treatment is no small issue.  Treatment usually involves injections into several sites including the temples, neck, back of the head and shoulders.  This is not something a person decides to do on a whim, nor is it something that someone like me, who is terrified of needles, decides to do because they just don’t want to try whatever else is available. In my case, I’ll try anything before I have to take a shot, much less, multiple shots.

Now, Regence in Washington State is eliminating coverage for Botox starting October 1, leaving the individuals who have tried every treatment and taken every medication without relief, with no coverage for the one treatment and form of relief that they have been able to find.

True, Botox does not work for everyone.  But, not everyone wants to even try it.  Most people are very content to take some of the excellent migraine medications available to either control or prevent migraines.  The people who move on to Botox are usually patients who get no relief from available medications or who have such strong reactions to the medication that they have to try something else. 

Regence says that it is discontinuing coverage for Botox treatment of migraines because it is not clinically proven.  If you ask the people whose headaches are better because they are using Botox injections, they will tell you different.  In addition, more and more research points to one cause of migraines being muscles that spasm, creating pressure on nerves in the head.  Since Botox stops the spasms and paralyzes the muscles, the logic is that somewhere there is clinical proof that Botox can help migraine sufferers.

Currently, there are studies being completed at the Swedish Headache Center.  Researchers and doctors there say that Regence has acted prematurely in discontinuing Botox treatment for migraines.  They have stated that the results of their testing and studies – to be released shortly – will prove without a doubt that Botox can control or eliminate chronic migraines.  Also, Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox plans to petition the FDA for approval to use Botox to treat migraine headaches.

Regence has stated that if sufficient information becomes available, they will reconsider their position.

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Finally, Some Accurate Migraine Information

Written by AnaLise on September 18, 2008 – 5:43 pm -

Migraine sufferers get it.  Some doctors and health professionals get it, too.  And, there are some employers who get it.  They understand that migraine headaches are not just an excuse not to go to work, take care of business, clean the house, or do anything and everything else a migraine sufferer has to do.

Those of us who have suffered from migraines understand the meaning of pain.  In fact, some women have reported that their migraine headaches are worse than the pain of childbirth.  I can attest to the fact that this is true.  Natural childbirth without medication was uncomfortable but not unbearable.  Migraine headaches are overwhelming – even with pain medication and trips to the emergency room.

There is hope for migraine sufferers, and some of it is located within the pages of a newly released book entitled, “The Migraine Brain” by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D.  Dr. Bernstein is a top notch neurologist who has been on the Harvard Medical School faculty for seventeen years.  Her partner in research and writing, Elaine McArdle has helped compile the information included in “The Migraine Brain.”

Dr. Bernstein was studying to become a neurologist when she started experiencing migraines.  During the course of her migraine episodes, she began to turn her attention to causes and remedies and focus on these aspects while she was earning her doctorate.  Her findings from those days through her years as part of the Harvard Medical School faculty form the basis for the book.

In addition to writing the book, Dr. Bernstein has established the Women’s Headache Center at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This is one of the first clinics of this type in the world.  It was designed by women who suffer from migraines and offers treatment through two staff neurologists, a psychiatrist, support groups and other services.

Since the first day that the clinic opened, Dr. Bernstein has been receiving calls and visits from people throughout the country and around the world in search of relief.

“The Migraine Brain” is a must for people who suffer from migraines – especially women.  The information presented in the book has been tried and tested by Dr. Bernstein over nearly two decades.  It brings accurate information and hope to individuals who suffer from migraines and to the professionals who treat them.


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Migraines Linked to Blood Clots

Written by AnaLise on September 18, 2008 – 5:40 pm -

We have finally gotten to the place in society where more doctors and health professionals are acknowledging the fact that migraines are truly debilitating headaches, and they are now trying to do something about those headaches.

For many years people were basically told to take two aspirin…Well, you know the rest.  It was little comfort to hear that you could go home and grin and bear it, but there was no real relief.

There is more research and more relief these days, and more information to help in the understanding of migraine headaches.  For example, one important finding is that migraines are often linked to stroke. 

This is important information, but until recently, there was no actual information about how and why they were linked to stroke.  Recent information points to the fact that many people with migraines develop atherosclerosis more often and much sooner than people who do not suffer from migraines, and atherosclerosis is a major factor in strokes.  This information is in the process of being confirmed.

There is information that sheds light on migraines, blood clots and stroke.  A study of the medical records of individuals who suffered from migraines revealed that their records showed they had increased vein-related blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis, DVT, and pulmonary embolism.  The incidence of these blood clots for people who suffered from migraines was much higher than in those who did not suffer from migraines.  The information is still being re-confirmed, but it is an exciting finding that could shed new light on prevention and treatment of migraines for some migraineurs. 

Studies during the past few years have shown links between migraines and stroke, as well as various mutations and genetic factors.  The current study showing the link with vein-related blood clots could tie migraine and stroke together with a cause, helping physicians find relief for their patients with migraines and lower their possibility of stroke at the same time.

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Types of Migraines You Don’t Always Hear About

Written by AnaLise on September 10, 2008 – 8:01 am -

Most of us have heard about or experienced a migraine headache in our lifetime.  We know about the nausea, the pounding pain in the head, the sensitivity to light and many of the other symptoms that can occur.  We know about lying down in a quiet dark room and taking whatever medication – usually prescribed by our physician – that will help.

What most of us don’t know about and have not heard about are types of migraines that don’t have the usual migraine symptoms and are not easily identified or diagnosed.

One type of migraine is called an abdominal migraine.  These migraines affect both children and adults and, rather than having severe headache, the symptoms are severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and is caused by changes in the levels of histamine and serotonin in the body.  The symptoms are decreased or eliminated by some of the common migraine prevention medications.

Other migraines don’t involve headaches at all, but involve symptoms from temporary blindness to stomach pain to temporary paralysis.  Since there are no actual tests for these migraines, they are often misdiagnosed as a virus, mini-stroke, epilepsy or even appendicitis.  It can be dangerous to diagnose and treat these migraines, as the wrong medication could be harmful, if not, fatal.

Basilar migraines are migraines that have severe dizziness, vomiting, ringing in the ears, diarrhea, slurred speech and fainting.  At least three of these symptoms occur together in Basilar migraines.  The symptoms last for an hour or so and are following by terrible throbbing headaches on both sides of the head that can last up to 72 hours.  These can be confused for epilepsy, and the patient should see a neurologist for treatment.  There are various medications available.

Hemiplegic migraine involves temporary paralysis and pins and needles on one side of the body including the face, arms and legs. There can be slurred speech, confusion and vision problems, and all of this is followed by the actual headache.  These can be confused with stroke or mini-stroke and medications can help, but typical triptans which are used for migraines should usually not be used to treat these migraines.

Retinal migraines involve temporary blindness in one eye or seeing spots along with or followed by the migraine headache.  Doctors do not understand this condition, but feel it is often linked to over-exercise or over exertion and can be mistaken for blood clots in the eye.

Status migraines are the same as migraines but differ in the fact that they last at least 72 hours or can last for weeks.  These migraines are often due to some of the painkillers used or may be happening because the migraine medications being used are not working well.  Changing medication can eliminate or greatly reduce these headaches.  These headaches, however, can be serious enough to require hospitalization.

The information regarding and identifying different types of migraines is important for all of us to know.  It can help us avoid pain and could even save our life or the life of someone we know.  If you experience any of these symptoms make sure to discuss them with your doctor and if they cannot figure out what the problem is, let them know about what you have learned here.

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Under-Diagnosed Migraines Due to Stigma

Written by AnaLise on September 10, 2008 – 7:05 am -

Migraine headaches have been becoming more prevalent throughout the United States in the past few years.  In fact, it is estimated that about 30 million Americans suffer from migraines, and many of that number suffer from chronic or ongoing migraines.

This is a large number of people, and research shows that many of these migraine sufferers remain undiagnosed, under-diagnosed and untreated.  Less than half of the 30 million are diagnosed by a medical practitioner and as a result, their lives are impacted severely.

Without diagnosis and treatment for migraines, people are often debilitated with no relief.  If you have ever suffered a severe migraine or know someone who has, you know that the symptoms of severe nausea, extreme pain, blinding sensitivity to light and other symptoms make it impossible to function, much less work or participate in any activities of life, until the symptoms subside. 

This can take a few hours, a day or more.  Severe migraines do not usually respond to medications such as over the counter headache or migraine remedies.  Some migraines that are not too strong may respond well if migraine medication is taken immediately, however, for severe and ongoing migraines, prescription medication and/or other medical treatment is usually necessary. 

Unfortunately, there is often a stigma when it comes to migraines.  Migraines used to be called everything from “a woman’s complaint” to a reaction to stress that needs a little rest and relaxation.  Doctors did not take it seriously.  Some would prescribe pain medication, others would prescribe tranquilizers or muscle relaxers.  In some cases, these alleviated some of the pain.  In other cases, these did not help at all.

Many migraine sufferers have hesitated going through the same stigma and lack of care and concern again, and have suffered with the pain – many for years.  There is good news for them.  They no longer have to suffer.  There are any new medications available, and if one doesn’t work, there are others to choose from.  There are also various treatments and there are doctors and pain clinics that specialize in treating migraines and helping people on a long term basis. 

If you suffer from severe headaches – especially more than one or two per month, do not suffer in silence.  Find a pain or headache clinic or talk to your doctor and get some relief.  There is help available.  The stigma is no more.

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Migraine Help Through New Procedure

Written by AnaLise on September 10, 2008 – 6:21 am -

Though there are still many questions as to the causes of migraines, there are more answers regarding treatment than ever before.  There are more medications available and more of them have a variety of properties that do everything from relaxing people and acting as tranquilizers to other medications that directly work on the headaches themselves.

There are also treatments that range from acupuncture to surgery, and now there is a new medical procedure that is being studied in trials.  The procedure created by the St. Jude medical technology company and being tested at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Michigan has provided substantial relief to a handful of migraine sufferers.

The instrument used in the procedure is called a PFO Closure System Device.  The way it works is that doctors use the device to close a very small tunnel that sits between the left and right heart chambers.  This procedure had been used by two cardiologists at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to help prevent strokes in some patients.  When people have small strokes, cardiologists state that part of the cause is that blood clots are bubbled from one side of the heart to the other without being filtered through the lungs before traveling to the brain.  Closing the tunnel through surgery would eliminate this and hopefully eliminate the possibilities of a large or massive stroke.

 The first patient to participate in the trial and undergo the procedure for migraines saw significant improvement immediately.  In a period of time during which she would have had about 30 debilitating migraines, the number of migraines she experienced was only 4.  Before the procedure, she would be so debilitated by the migraines that she worked for only as many hours as she could stand, then go home and knock herself out with medication to overcome the migraine.  She would get up the next day and repeat the procedure.  She does not have to do this any more.

Because of the trial procedure, the first patient in the trial says that she is enjoying life, doing well at work, and even getting a chance to relax because she is not worried about when the next migraine is coming and how bad it will be.

This is good news for migraine sufferers and for the medical professionals trying to help them.  It offers great hope for bringing relief in the near future.

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Can Ginger Help Ease Migraines?

Written by AnaLise on September 6, 2008 – 3:41 am -

It is not news to migraine sufferers that there are no real answers when it comes to causes and treatment for migraines.  Too often, when an individual suffers from migraines, especially chronic ones, there are few answers, and too often, there is no support from the person’s doctor.

It is unfortunate when doctors are at a loss as to what to do about migraines and your doctor basically throws up their hands in frustration.  Sure, there are more medications available these days that will alleviate the symptoms of migraines, but there are also many questions about those medications. 

Individuals who prefer natural treatment aren’t always comfortable with prescriptions, however, they sometimes try them when there is no other alternative.  There are worries about side effects and drug interactions.  Plus, not all treatments work for everyone, so it’ a case of hit or miss.

It is estimated that in the UK alone, there are nearly 200,000 migraine headaches suffered every single day.  Over 6 million people suffer from migraines in the UK on a regular basis. 

Research in conjunction with Migraine Action, the national migraine awareness organization in the UK have studied thousands of migraine sufferers and found that ginger has helped relieve symptoms in 63% of the people studied.  Ginger is natural and it has been used for many ailments.  Ginger – as in ginger ale – has been proven to help alleviate stomach problems including nausea and stomach pain from flu, food poisoning and other digestive issues.  Ginger is also said to help control blood pressure, diminish sinus problems and help alleviate headaches, so using it for migraines isn’t a stretch.  In fact, since nausea often accompanies migraines, even if ginger doesn’t stop the headache, it can help with the nausea.

With so many questions about migraines unanswered, and with so many individuals looking for relief from migraines, ginger could be a remedy to try.  After all, it just might help get rid of the pain and help your health at the same time.

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The Migraine Pain Center

Written by AnaLise on September 6, 2008 – 3:16 am -

Migraine headaches are caused by a combination of signals that interact between the brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves.  It is not exactly clear what activates the signals, however, we know that the combination creates serious pain and other symptoms to migraine sufferers.

This is where the migraine “pain center” comes in.  The migraine pain center is like a generator toward the middle of the brain.  It is known that migraines begin when nerve cells send out messages for blood vessels in the brain to constrict and then pulsate.  This is a painful experience, as any migraine sufferer will tell you.

Treatments are available that can diminish or eliminate a particular headache or control the headaches long term.  Many of these treatments, whether in the form of medication, herbs, biofeedback or other relief, are aimed at the pain center.  If the nerve cells are calmed down and therefore, the blood vessels stop pulsating and this should lead to the headache ending.

There are treatments and medications available that will achieve this.  In addition, it is important for individuals who suffer migraines – especially on a regular or continuous basis – to track their triggers.  What did you have to eat or drink right before the headache began, or within the few hours before?  What were you doing?  What kind of a day did you have?  Were you under stress?  Were your sinuses bothering you?  Did you just drive for two hours in rush hour traffic?

All of these are important to keep track of so that you can do the very best thing to deal with migraines: find the cause for you and eliminate it.  After all, the pain center cannot be activated if there is no trigger.

Stop your migraines before they start and give your brain’s pain center a break.

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Microsurgery for Migraines

Written by AnaLise on September 6, 2008 – 2:46 am -

Individuals who have suffered from migraines know how debilitating they can be.  The throbbing, the nausea, the sensitivity to light.  If you have ever felt the pain of a migraine, you know it is extreme.  Some people have described it as feeling like a hot knife is stabbing you in the head, feeling like a fireplace poker is lodged through your temple, feeling like a piece of steel is slicing through your eye, and other very uncomfortable sounding situations.

There are many triggers to migraines including various foods, beverages, lack of sleep or lack of good sleep, increased stress and muscular difficulty.  Some of the treatments have involved biofeedback, vitamins, herbs, massage, stress relief, acupressure, acupuncture, chiropractic care and more.  Some of these treatments help some of the people some of the time. 

In addition to these treatments, there are a variety of medications available today that attack various symptoms and causes of migraines.  Some of the medications are available without prescription and others require prescriptions.  Prescription medication for migraines is often quite expensive and out of reach for many individuals.

There is a new breakthrough for migraines that does not involve any of these other treatments.  The breakthrough is a unique surgery that is only being performed by a handful of surgeons. 

The microsurgery which is performed similar to plastic surgery is performed to take the pressure off a particular nerve in the head that when pinched causes migraines.  The procedure involves cutting part of the muscle that pinches the nerve, thus eliminating the pressure.  After surgery, which decompresses the nerve, the nerve should regenerate itself and should not respond to headaches after healing. 

The procedure works for 80% of the people who have it done, according to Georgetown University Washington Hospital.  In the individuals where the procedure does not work, a subsequent surgery can be performed to remove the nerve completely. 

There are specific symptoms necessary for individuals to have the surgery.  Also, surgery is no small feat.  This is a procedure for when you are at the point where you have tried other treatments that have not worked and you are still having migraines on a regular basis.  If you are in this situation, however, it is good news to know that there is help and relief available.

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