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A Look at Chronic Migraines

Written by Courteney

Posted on July 30, 2016 at 1:29 am

 

Migraine disorder is a prevalent neurological disorder affecting nearly 38 million people in the United States. Migraines are classified as recurrent primary headaches that can range from moderate to severe.

What are ‘Primary Headaches’? 

Primary headaches are chronic, sometimes daily headaches or migraines that do not appear to be caused by another underlying health condition. Primary headaches are conditions in themselves, such as migraine disorder. Often in cases of primary headaches diagnostic tests come back normal, although the symptoms may be quite debilitating.

Episodic and Chronic Migraines

Some people suffer episodic migraines (EM), whereby they experience mild to moderate migraines once every few months or so. Also known as migraine disease or migraine disorder, chronic migraines (CM) is a troublesome condition that causes more frequent and disabling migraines that are longer in duration than episodic migraines. Unfortunately even in 2016, there is little known about migraines.

Migraine symptoms

Migraines can lead to excruciating pain and discomfort that can put a person out of commission for days. Migraines often extend far beyond head pain. Most primary migraines go through 4 stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome. Symptoms of these stages may include:

  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain that radiates down face or neck
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Faintness or syncope
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Stiff neck muscles
  • Partial vision loss or blurry vision
  • Numbness or weakness in the face or upper body

Migraine Prevention

Many doctors are now having migraine-prone patients practice certain prevention techniques in hopes their migraines will be fewer and farther apart. Some of these strategies include:

  • Keeping a ‘trigger diary’ to see if your migraines correlate to specific activities, foods or scents.
  • Avoidance. Once you identify potential triggers such as scents, dust or certain foods, do your best to avoid them.
  • Try Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS) – more than just a tongue-twister, t-SNS devices have been greenlit by the FDA as preventative migraine therapy tools. It may be worth a try if you frequetly struggle with migraines.
  • Nip your stress in the bud. Excess stress is bad news for any chronic medical condition, including migraines.
  • Work that bod out on the regular. Endorphins are nature’s painkillers, getting them flowing routinely may help cut down on pain that can be lurking sidestage.
  • Keep an eye on your hormones. Estrogen in particular plays a role with migraines in females, some doctors use hormone altering medications with some patients.
  • Watch your diet. There are certain foods such as artificial sweetners that have been linked to migraines.
  • Establish routine. A lack of sleep can cause migraines, so can the stress of a schedule that is all over the map, so try to stick to a routine bedtime, as well as a nightly routine.
  • Give acupuncture a try! Many people swear by acupuncture for various illnesses, it can’t hurt (too much!) to give it a try to see if it works for you.

Medical Treatment for Migraine Disorders

Unfortunately prevention isn’t always effective, but luckily there are many treatment options available today for when a migraine does strike. Decades ago aspirin was all that was available to aid these massive pains in the head, but modern medicine has opened up the gates for faster-acting and longer lasting migraine relief. Some medications doctors often prescribe patients with migraine disorders include:  NSAIDs to help with the pain and inflammation, anelgesics, daily preventative medication in serious cases of migraine disorders and triptan injections, just to name a few. If you experience migraines, talk to your doctor (or one of our board certified DocChat physicians), so he or she can evaluate your case to determine the best treatment plan for you specifically.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Keep an eye out for our post on secondary headaches coming soon.

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