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Migraines Are Not Just Bad Headaches by Angela Lamb

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Despite popular belief among non-migraine sufferers, migraines are not just really bad headaches.  In addition to a really bad headache, migraine sufferers, most commonly women, also experience nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound.   Curious to learn more about why females are largely the recipients of this annoying and often disabling problem I dove deeper.  Preventative methods as well as how to lessen the impact and length of migraine occurrences were also researched.

It appears that the reason why more women (3 women to 1 man) complain about debilitating headaches is due to the hormone estrogen as well as other fluctuating hormones in women during menstruation and pregnancy.  During these fluctuations, migraines often occur.   It has been recommended if you find changing estrogen levels in your body to trigger migraines, try to avoid or limit medications that contain estrogen such as birth control and hormone replacement therapy.

If migraines occur quite often – at least once a month – your physician may recommend preventative and/or acute medications as well as lifestyle alterations.

Medications that have been found to be helpful in migraine prevention are as follows: Antidepressants, Frova, and Botox.   Antidepressants affect the chemical serotonin in the brain.  It has been found that two antidepressants Elavil and Effexor are effective in preventing migraines.   Triptans are often used after the onset of a migraine to reduce its length and effect, but one Triptan called Frova has also been helpful in preventing migraines during menstruation.

Frova relieves pain and is known to alter serotonin levels.  Botox has been found to prevent migraines in those who have them chronically – 15 days per month for 4 hours daily or longer.  It is believed that Botox inhibits the release of certain chemicals that transmit pain signals.  Medications most commonly prescribed for migraine relief after onset are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, triptans, or Mignal (dihydroergotamine mesylate).

NSAIDs are over-the-counter drugs such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen.  They reduce swelling by blocking enzymes and proteins made by the body.  They are often used for short-term relief.  Triptans also help to reduce swelling in the brain while also helping with light and noise sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting.  These are often used by migraine sufferers who have moderate to severe episodes that prohibit them from completing normal daily tasks because Triptans help reduce the severity and length of a migraine upon onset.  They are also well tolerated and the onset of relief is fairly quick – within 20 to 30 minutes.  They work best if taken as soon as the migraine starts, but can also be taken after onset for relief.  A Triptan that works well for one person however may not work well for another so trying a few may be needed.  And some migraine sufferers combine both NSAIDS and Triptans in order to find relief.  Mignal (dihydroergotamine mesylate) reduces swelling in the brain as well and narrows the brain’s blood vessels for the acute pain of migraines.

Other suggested preventative migraine tactics are adequate and consistent sleep, regular exercise, regular meals, and plenty of water.  Eliminating food and/or drink triggers such as chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine and stress management have also been advised.


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