Migraine Headache

Quick Answers To The Most Common Migraine Questions


Q1.What are the symptoms of a migraine?

The pain is felt on just one of the head and is often severe or extreme.

Aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzagging lines, numbness, paralysis) experienced twenty to sixty minutes before onset of head pain.

Nausea and/or vomiting.

Sensitivity to light and noise.

Inability to continue with your daily activities.

Q2.What foods are known triggers of migraines?

alcohol, especially dark drinks like rum, red wine.

beer, scotch, or bourbon.

dairy products, aged cheeses, etc.

monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in processed meat and Chinese food.

citrus fruits, dried fruits, bananas, and avocados.

aspartame, an artificial sweetener known by its brand name NutraSweet.

tyramine -- found in fresh breads

caffeine found in coffee, tea, and sodas.

Q3.What are some non-food triggers of migraines?

Stress is a major contributor to migraine headaches.

Hormonal Changes at the time of ovulation or at the start of the menstrual cycle can trigger migraines for many women.

Fatigue, as well as changes in sleep patterns. In addition, either too much sleep or too little sleep can trigger headaches.

Nicotine, whether ingested through cigars, cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Birth control pills can trigger migraines in some women.

Fasting or missing a meal can trigger a migraine because of low blood sugar.

Changes in the weather or altitude can trigger a migraine headache.

Motion sickness caused by air travel or car trips can trigger a migraine.

Q4.When I should think about seeing a doctor about migraine headaches?

If the headache occurs suddenly and can be described as severe.

If the pain is felt on just one side of the head.

If the headache is accompanied by pain in the eye or behind the ear.

If the headache is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances including hallucinations, or sensitivity to light and sound.

If the headache has a definite pattern to it; for instance, a pattern in which the time of the day it occurs, the circumstances under which it occurs or the length of time you experience the pain is similar.

Any headache that results in a period of confusion or a loss of consciousness should result in immediate medical attention.

If the headache results in number, paralysis or weakness in the legs and arms.

If the headache becomes persistent, especially if you have not been a headache sufferer up to that point.

If the headache impairs your ability to function in a normal manner at work, home or during social functions.

If the headache bares any similarity to headaches that other members of your family suffer.

Q5.What’s the first thing I should when a migraine hits?

Turn off the lights, close the shades, draw the curtains and lie down on a comfortable bed.

Apply an ice pack to the area of pain.

Take medicine as directed by your health care provider.

What’s the best medication for a migraine?

There are a multitude of drugs on the market with the potential to help in the prevention of migraine headaches. The following list contains those drugs that have been shown to work best.

Beta-blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and nadolol (Corgard) have been shown to be relatively safe and effective. Metoprolol (Lopressor) and atenolol (Tenormin) are alternative drugs in the same class.

Anticonvulsants have been used in the treatment of migraines. Valproate (Depakote and other brand names) tops the list in terms of research backing up its effectiveness, but babapentin (Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax) are also considered effective.

Tricyclic antidepressants can be quite effective, but come with the price of side effects that include sedation, blurred vision, dry mouth and constipation. The best choice here is typically thought to be amitriptyline (Elavil), though many other sufferers swear by nortriptyline (Norpramin).

Serotonin antagonists such as methysergide (Sansert) have proven a solid treatment for many, but come with potentially serious side effects.