• How do I know if my headache is a migraine?

    Migraines are intense and severe headaches that often are accompanies by other symptoms including:  nausea; pain behind one eye or ear; sensitivity to light, smells or sounds; and extreme fatigue.  Migraines are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you regularly experience signs and symptoms of migraine attacks, be sure to keep track of them and watch for patterns/triggers.  Then make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in headaches who will be able to help you eliminate or reduce the frequency of your headaches.

  • What causes a migraine?

    Migraine headaches are caused by a variety of triggering substances and events, such as a head trauma or brain injury. Once the trigger occurs, there is a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain followed by a dilation of the same blood vessels.

  • What are some of the things that can trigger a migraine?

    Some of the more common triggers include:  lack of sleep; stress; flickering lights; strong odors; changing weather patterns; certain foods; food additives; and nutrient deficiencies. Many patients can reduce the likelihood of migraine headaches by making some lifestyle changes.

  • I’ve heard that some people get auras prior to the onset of a migraine. What does this mean?

    As the blood vessels in the brain constrict, there is a decrease in blood flow to your brain often leading to the classic migraine aura, which are commonly visual abnormalities. Even in people who don’t experience the classic migraine aura, many of them can tell that an attack is imminent.

  • Why are migraines so painful?

    As the blood vessels in the brain dilate the pounding pain begins. Once the same blood vessels dilate, there is a rapid increase in blood pressure inside the head. It is this increased pressure that leads to the pounding headache. Each time the heart beats it sends another shock wave up the major arteries in the neck to the brain.

  • Are migraines hereditary?

    Yes.  Four out of five migraine sufferers have a family member who suffers from migraines.

  • Are drugs the only way to treat my migraines?

    While there is no “cure” for migraines, many patients have great success managing and preventing them without the use of pharmaceuticals.  Many migraine sufferers put off or choose not to take their migraine medicine at all because of the negative side effects.  While avoiding medicines altogether might not be feasible, there are alternatives to consider that can reduce the dependency on medicines to manage migraines.   It’s imperative that you and your doctor develop a headache management plan that includes:

    Acute treatment — a therapy used to stop an attack when it begins.

    Preventive treatment — a therapy used to reduce the number of attacks, lessen the intensity of pain, and prevent the onset of future attacks.

    Complementary treatment — a non-drug therapy used mostly for prevention. In some sufferers, life-style changes and other complementary treatments can prevent the triggering of attacks.

     

  • Are there things I can do to prevent a migraine?

    Some common triggers for migraines are skipped meals, irregular caffeine intake, irregular sleep, the menstrual cycle in women, change in the weather, air travel, and emotional or physical stress. Migraine patients are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment or in their own body function. Obviously some of these triggers are beyond a patient’s control, but identifying your unique triggers and making simple lifestyle changes can have significant impact on your headaches.