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Fall 2004

Target Source of Pain for Migraine Headache Relief

Although the exact cause of migraine headaches is not known, some researchers believe that migraine is the result of fundamental neurological abnormalities caused by genetic mutations in the brain, notes Verna Porter, M.D., chief of neurology at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

Treatment of this common, and often debilitating disorder, should be tailored to the individual sufferer, considering factors such as the frequency, severity, and duration of the headaches.

“Migraine symptoms can be diverse, and may include pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, mood changes, and visual changes,” Dr. Porter says.

Those who experience migraines infrequently usually find sufficient relief from taking over-the-counter analgesics or anti-inflammatories, or prescription medications when pain appears or becomes particularly severe. A relatively new class of prescription drugs developed specifically for migraine treatment works by increasing the serotonin level in the brain— which falls during migraine attacks— and interrupting the blood vessels from spasms, thus aborting the headache. Taken by pill, nasal spray, or injection, this medication often brings relief within two hours.

“Migraine prevention is the best treatment strategy for frequent sufferers,” advises Dr. Porter. “Strive for consistency in sleep patterns, exercise, and eating. Also, watch for substances or food that can trigger an attack; common foods include chocolate, certain cheeses, and wine.”

Although not formulated specifically for migraines, regular use of betablockers, anti-seizure medications, anti-depressants, or calcium channel blockers appears to have a prophylactic effect, often reducing the number of migraine attacks.





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