Migraines: More Than a Headache

Migraines are estimated to affect 144 million men, women, and children worldwide. However, fewer than 5% have been seen by a healthcare provider, received an accurate diagnosis, and obtained the proper care. Seattle Women’s hopes to educate those who suffer from migraines by providing more information about when it is time to seek help.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is a neurological disorder that makes the brain abnormally sensitive to triggers outside and inside our bodies. These triggers cause a headache and other symptoms that can be debilitating. The most common migraine triggers are:

  • Environmental (weather, smells, bright lights)
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Poor Sleep Patterns
  • High Stress
  • Certain Foods and Alcohol

Symptoms of a Migraine

Most of us have experienced a headache at least once in our lives, but a headache is not the same as a migraine. Migraines have specific symptoms that do not accompany a headache. 90% of those diagnosed say that migraines interfere with their daily lives. The symptoms can be broken down into four categories:

  • Headache-Throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head that worsens with movement and can last 4-48 hours untreated. This can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sounds, and odors.
  • Aura- Changes in vision such as seeing stars, lines, zigzag lines, flashing lights, spots, or waves. You can also experience numbness and tingling, and difficulty speaking or understanding others.
  • Prodrome-Light and sound sensitivity, nausea, fatigue, yawning, increased urination, cravings, mood changes, and neck pain.
  • Postdrome- Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and decreased energy.

Managing a Life with Migraines

Although there is no guaranteed way to stop migraines from happening, you can reduce the frequency of them by learning what your specific triggers are. Start keeping a record of your migraines by recording when they happen, where the pain is centered, how long they last, intensity, etc. You can enter this information into a blank notebook by hand, in an Excel document, or take advantage of one of the many apps for your smartphone or device. Once you know what your triggers are, you can make any changes needed to reduce them and begin the foundation to build a treatment plan with your doctor.

Treatment options can include medications that are either acute (ones you take at the first signs of an impending migraine) or preventative (taken daily or on a regular basis if you are having four or more migraines a month).

If you want to take a more holistic approach, it is best that you do so under the advice of your doctor. The American Migraine Foundation has a great article outlining some common alternative options and their effectiveness.

For 26 years, Seattle Women’s: Health, Research, and Gynecology has provided world-class women’s health services through our team of board-certified Gynecologists. We are also a clinical research site that has conducted pivotal trials for the approval of a new class of migraine medications called CGRP inhibitors. These include Aimovig, Ajovy, and Emgality

Clinical studies help advance available treatment options for different medical conditions like migraines. We are currently enrolling male and female participants in our migraine studies. If you would like more information or would like to get involved, click here. Qualified participants may receive benefits such as access to medications not yet available to the public and compensation for time and travel. 

References:

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/3rd-anti-cgrp-treatment-approved-for-migraine/

https://americanheadachesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/GENERALMIGRIANE_11x14.pdf

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/living-with-migraine/

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Facts-About-Migraine-AMF.png


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