If you suffer from migraines, you know that they’re more than bad
headaches. You may feel nauseated, have trouble with your vision and be
sensitive to light and noise. For some people, migraines are so debilitating
that they can’t do anything but rest in a dark, quiet room.
Migraine is an inherited condition involving brain chemicals that, when
out of balance, disrupt the pathways between your brain and your nerves.
A migraine can happen spontaneously or be triggered by environmental factors.
More than 36 million Americans – about 12 percent of the population
– live with recurring migraines and need regular treatment to manage the pain.
“One of the first steps in treating migraines is to look for triggers--things
that cause them,” says
Zachary Lewton, MD, a neurologist with
Annadel Medical Group in Santa Rosa and stroke medical director at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
“There are long lists of potential culprits, and every person’s
triggers are different. Some people get migraines after eating certain
foods like cheeses or drinking particular beverages, especially those
with caffeine or alcohol. Stress, medication, and hormonal changes are
among other common triggers.”
If you suffer from migraines, Dr. Lewton suggests that you take note of
what you had been doing before the migraine started. ” “See
if you can identify a pattern,” Dr. Lewton says. “As you identify
possible triggers, eliminate or avoid them and see what effect that has.
It’s an ongoing process, and seeing your doctor for advice should
be part of it. Your doctor can suggest trigger-reducing techniques and
determine whether medication is appropriate.”
There are two general types of medicine that can stop the pain after a
migraine hits. When over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen,
naproxen, and acetaminophen aren’t helping, a class of medications
called triptans - developed just for migraines – are the preferred
treatment. As a rule, narcotic painkillers, like OxyContin and Vicodin,
shouldn’t be taken for migraines unless other drugs fail. New studies
suggest that many migraine sufferers are taking narcotics and barbituates
for their pain.
“These types of drugs should generally be a medicine of last resort,
because of the risk of addiction,” Dr. Lewton says. “Before
taking narcotics or sedatives, make sure your doctor is aware you suffer
from migraines and ask if less addictive medicines would be more effective.”
When it comes to preventing a migraine before it starts, there aren’t
any drugs that are specifically designed for migraines. However, some
medications intended for other purposes can reduce the severity and frequency
“For some people, natural treatments or prescription medications
like beta blockers, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants can really help
manage migraines,” Dr. Lewton says. “These medications must
be taken every day. Talk to you doctor about whether this approach is
right for you.”
New medications to keep migraines from occurring are under development,
as pharmaceutical researchers develop a new class of experimental drugs
that have shown promise in human trials. Reports say that these drugs
reduce the frequency of migraines without too many side effects.
One final note: Dr. Lewton says if you have “the worst headache of
your life” or especially a headache that’s accompanied by
slurred speech, confusion, or weakness on one side of the body, seek medical
attention right away to rule out a stroke or brain tumor.
For more information about Annadel Medical Group, please click
here. For more information about Dr. Lewton, please click