Migraine Headache Treatment

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What are migraine headaches?

Migraine headaches are common and usually more intense than most other headaches. They often are recurrent and have associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and in some people, warning symptoms, termed auras, that a migraine headache is going to develop. Some people may have throbbing pain on one side of the head.

Migraine headache treatment and prevention

Once a migraine headache is diagnosed (with other conditions ruled out), treatment can begin. Because the headaches are usually recurrent, there is not much distinction between treatment and prevention so treatments will include prevention methods.

There are many treatments for migraine headaches. Drugs are used but some treatments do not use drugs. Nondrug treatments include ice to the head, biofeedback, adequate sleep, smoking cessation, and avoidance of your food and environmental triggers (for example, stress, flashing lights, and drinking red wine). Others recommend natural treatments such as herbs, acupressure, aromatherapy, group therapy, and many others.

While nondrug methods may work for some, many doctors find these methods work poorly for the majority of migraine patients. Consequently, drugs are used in the majority of patients with migraine headaches. In addition, patients do not respond to medications the same way. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors must try several different drugs to find what best works for you. The first drugs are analgesics like acetaminophen and NSAIDS. At best, they may help mild migraines. More severe migraines may respond to various triptans like sumatriptan (but not in pregnancy). Ergots like ergotamine or a combined drug like Midrin (isometheptene, acetaminophen and dichloralphenazone) may also be effective in stopping a migraine. Although not recommended as initial treatment, some clinicians use narcotics and butalbital-containing drugs when triptans or other drugs fail. Since nausea and vomiting often accompany migraines, antinausea drugs like metoclopramide are often used with triptans. Some clinicians add an antidepressant to the treatment plan for some patients.

Migraine Headache Treatment Resources

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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/18/2017

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