January 18, 2020

Dependence on migraine drugs may lead to more migraines

What if the medicine you were taking to remedy a chronic condition or disease was actually causing your illness to worsen, or even causing another condition to develop?  That is exactly the idea behind some recent studies that have shown that some medications used to treat headaches, especially migraines, may be actually contributing to the problem.  Many people who take triptans for migraines end up developing headaches that can be attributed to these drugs.  In fact, according to ABC News, approximately four million people may suffer from medication-overuse headaches, as well as “rebound” headaches that occur when a medication wears off.

In a study of 160,000 patients, Dr. Lipton, from the Montefiore Headache Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that approximately two percent of individuals who take migraine medication at least three times a month may become dependent on the drugs.  This dependency causes them to develop more migraines, and as such, they may have to change medications or treatment options.  But, these medications provide such great relief in the interim that it is difficult to give them up.  What can an individual do when he/she is suffering from such debilitating headaches without relying on medication?  ABC News offers some suggestions about how to manage migraines without drugs.  These guidelines may also help people to function better, as they will not have to suffer through medication side effects in addition to the migraine pain.

First, try to keep a routine schedule, which means the same bedtime, mealtime, and wake up time every single day of the week, including weekends.  This means avoiding sleeping in on weekends or rainy days, and avoiding big changes to this schedule whenever possible.  Next, try to keep a journal detailing what foods provoke a migraine and then avoid those particular items.  Don’t want to go through trial and error of finding what foods cause headaches?  Then, get a food list from the American Council on Headache Education and try to limit your consumption of these items.  It is also suggested that you exercise moderately and often.  In this same vein, you should avoid smoking and manage or avoid stressful situations.  Finally, try to get evaluated for any neck or jaw pain, as there could be an underlying cause of your headaches that is easily fixed with a neck pillow or a mouth guard.  If a headache has already developed, you can apply ice to the head and temples, and heat at the neck to stave off further pain.  Although all of these suggestions may not work for every migraine, they may help to curb some of the pain and may also result in fewer instances of medication overuse.

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Study suggests that “distractions” like background noise make it harder for migraine sufferers to concentrate

One of the hallmarks of a severe migraine headache is a person’s sensitivity to light.  Often, when someone is suffering from one of these debilitating headaches, he/she seeks refuge in a darkened room, limiting as much light as possible, as well as avoiding any distractions.  Migraine sufferers can spend hours in the room, waiting for the pain to dissipate and adjusting to their environment again.  It can be so bad that some people must leave work to avoid the light and ride the migraine out.  Most individuals who have migraines note that light makes the headaches worse, and sometimes, it is that very light exposure that causes a migraine to occur.  But, why exactly is there a connection between light and the onset of a migraine? Two Scottish researchers set out to find out why and if this relationship really exists.

The research team divided study participants into two groups: one group had never suffered from migraines, while the other group consisted of individuals who experienced chronic migraines.  The participants were asked to focus on a small white light, while light noise played in the background.  This light noise was akin to the television static that comes on when the cable is out or programming is discontinued.  The researchers noted that when the background noise was not on, the healthy participants, as well as the migraine sufferers could each find the white light with little to no problems.  In this instance, those living with migraines did not complain of any difficulty or pain.  When the background was turned on, however, those migraine sufferers had a very difficult time finding the white light when compared with the healthy participants.  It is important to note that those who were prone to migraines were not suffering from any at the time of the study.

The researchers concluded that people who suffer from migraines recognize visual cues better when there are no distractions around, such as the background noise in the study.  What was surprising to the researchers is that this was true even when they were not suffering from migraines.  They concluded that migraine sufferers are likely at a disadvantage when they are attempting to focus on a particular object or details in a cluttered environment.  Unfortunately, our environment is chock full of objects, noise, lights, etc. that may prevent these individuals from being able to focus.  This may explain why being in a dark room devoid of distractions allows an individual with a migraine to focus better and relax their eyes, contributing to some pain relief.

This also may the reason people with migraines find it so difficult to maintain employment and will often file for Social Security Disability. The work environment often involves noise, light, other people’s perfumes, etc., so it’s no wonder migraine sufferers have such a tough time on the job.

If you suffer from migraines, you may benefit from decreasing the amount of distractions present in your environment – be it at work or at home.  Additionally, when a migraine hits, it is prudent to escape to a quiet, darkened room to ease the adjustment to all that is present around you. If your migraines are so bad that even these measures do not help you, it may be time to file for Social Security Disability.

Helpful Tips on Managing Migraines

When someone suffers from something like a heart attack, it is easy to assess the situation, since you know that there is a problem with the heart and likely the blood vessels surrounding it. When someone suffers from excruciating headaches, however, the cause may be much more difficult to pinpoint. What is even more frustrating is that the treatment options may be all over the map, requiring a lot of trial and error on the part of the patient. These painful circumstances are what many migraine sufferers must endure on a daily basis.

What makes migraines so difficult to manage in the beginning is that they are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Many of the most common migraine symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, visual problems, pain, and sensitivity to light and sound, are the same symptoms pronounced in other conditions like cardiovascular problems or epilepsy. This lack of a sound diagnosis can then lead to other problems if a person is unable to manage the migraine pain adequately. Neurosurgeons have noted that if headache pain is left untreated or not effectively treated for a long amount of time, an individual may become more susceptible to pain over time as his/her pain threshold has been lowered. Conversely, some people over-medicate themselves for the pain associated with migraines. This can cause the condition to worsen and individuals may even experience more headaches due to the drug over-use. Finally, migraines can be problematic because treatment options vary from individual to individual. What may work for one person may do nothing to help another; therefore, some migraine sufferers must endure a litany of therapies before they find one that is suited to their particular condition.

With all of these problems, what can you do to manage your migraines? The following are some strategies to help you out.

greencheck Get a Proper Diagnosis:

If you suffer from debilitating headaches that cannot be managed by over the counter medications, you need to seek the advice of a health professional. You may have to find a specialist to diagnose the problem, rather than a primary care doctor. If you want to look beyond your family practitioner, you can locate a certified headache specialist through the Migraine Research Foundation’s website. Although these specialists are board certified on headaches, it is necessary for you to be your own best advocate. This means that you need to be frank with your doctor about your symptoms, as trivial or embarrassing as they may seem. You also need to be honest with your doctor even if he/she is not someone you feel comfortable with. You can always find a different doctor, but you only have this one life and body. Make sure to find a specialist that listens to you and answers any questions you may have. A specialist will probably rule out any other possible causes of your headaches by asking numerous questions. Once a migraine diagnosis has been made, you can then discuss treatment options.

greencheck Treatment Options:

The treatment available to patients suffering with migraines is as varied and individual as the people themselves. It is highly likely that you will have to test different options in order to find one that works for you. Most doctors will put a patient on a triptan drug after an initial diagnosis. Triptans work by controlling brain cell reactions that contribute to the development of migraines. Some people do not respond to these drugs and can then take ergot-related drugs, which work in the same manner. Even in the triptan family of drugs, it may take a while to find one that works for you. If you do not feel that you are responding well to a particular drug, let your doctor know so that he can prescribe a different form. Doctors also prescribe preventative drugs, such as anti-seizure medication, and natural remedies, such as magnesium, to help control migraines and manage the pain associated with them. With any treatment option, make certain to talk with your doctor about your reaction to them and side effects that you may experience. Additionally, do not be discouraged if the first medication or supplement you take does not work. There are many options available and by narrowing down your responses, you will find the one that works specifically for your needs.

greencheck Environmental Factors:

Migraines can occur due to environmental circumstances, such as stressful situations, food, noise, and bad weather. It is important to recognize what factors trigger your migraines. It may be necessary to keep a journal of your migraines and what was occurring in the days leading up to the migraine. This may be one of the most important factors in managing your migraines, as they help to prevent them from occurring in the first place. It may also be necessary for you to keep your routine predictable, rather than ever-changing, as jarring events can also trigger migraines.

Migraines can be very painful and often debilitating. Taking your healthcare into your own hands and advocating on your behalf can make a world of difference. Put these suggestions into practice and perhaps your migraines can become easier managed.