FAQs on Migraine Headache in Dallas

Migraine headache impacts over 25 million Americans costing the national economy more than $20 billion annually in lost work hours and medical bills. The most severe of headaches, it originates in the brainstem and impacts the central nervous system while causing pulsating pain. Extended between 2 to 72 hours, it results in acute discomfort restricting the ability to function and lead a normal life.

What is migraine headache?

Migraine headache occurs when one experiences extreme, throbbing pain in an area of the head. Nerve cells impacted by the migraine or release of inflammatory substances become oversensitive and signal blood vessels to constrict first and expand thereafter. This causes painful pulsation.

Such a painful condition has four important features.                                                                               

  • Intense, disabling pain in an area of the head
  • Headaches lasting from hours to days
  • Frequent pulsating headache attacks
  • Patients experiencing nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity

What are different stages of migraines?

A migraine headache may follow four different phases.

  • Prodrome Phase: It starts between two hours and two days prior to the migraine attack and patients feel depression, irritation, neck stiffness, mood changes, or fatigue.
  • Aura Phase: Preceding the migraine attack, the phase is marked by visual, sensory, or motor disturbances and sensory warning hinting at onset of a disorder. Many have the attacks even without sensory warnings.
  • Pain Phase: Acute headache starts and continues impacting head and neck with manifestation of the disorders through a variety of symptoms.
  • Postdrome Phase: If migraine headache remains even after 72 hours, it enters postdrome phase and patients experience a sore feeling and impaired capacity to think.

What are the symptoms of migraine headache?

A patient feels the following headache pain symptoms during a migraine attack.

  • Moderate to severe pain in the head
  • Pain becomes pulsating
  • Feeling of lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue and irritation
  • Sound and light sensitivity

The pain is felt in either or both sides of the head. About 90 percent are impacted by nausea while around 30 percent complain of vomiting. Patients may also experience rare migraine symptoms, including neurological disorders, nasal stuffiness, confusion, sweating, vision problem, and diarrhea.

What are the causes of migraine headache?

Researchers are yet to decipher what exactly causes migraine attacks. However, a variety of studies link these throbbing headaches to a number of factors.

  • Genetic: Migraine disorder passes through genes and outbreaks when there is a stressful condition and studies have highlighted 51% of such a chance. Rare migraine attacks are also caused by gene mutations that result in CADASIL syndrome or familial hemiplegic headaches.
  • External Triggers: Living in a stressful environment, anxiety, fatigue, and suppressed emotions may also trigger the attack.
  • Brainstem Changes: When there is any change in the brainstem, it impacts the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensory signals to the face, and painful headache onsets.
  • Serotonin Imbalance: Neurotransmitter serotonin is known to influence the mood and pain causing symptoms. When serotonin level drops, the brain releases neuropeptides, which in turn increase the blood flow through vessels. It results in headache that soon spreads to the outer brain.
  • Hormonal changes in women with history of migraine
  • Allergy to foods or prolonged fasting
  • Monosodium glutamate and similar preservative in food
  • High level of caffeine in drinks
  • Sleep disorder
  • Physical exertion, dehydration, and sensitivity to light, sound, and odor
  • Drug reactions

Who are at the increased risk of suffering from migraine headache?

People with following conditions are at increased risk of suffering from migraine headaches.

  • A family history of migraines, as the disorder has a good chance of genetic transmission.
  • Adolescents working in stressful or polluted environments, as brain nerves become hypersensitive.
  • Pregnant women
  • Women experiencing hormonal changes
  • Those with recurrent depression, tension, withdrawal symptoms, and anxiety
  • People eating more food with monosodium glutamate, nitrates, and other additives
  • Those consuming excessive caffeine or with low blood sugar
  • Sensitivity to adverse weather conditions
  • Patients living with neck and shoulder tension
  • Those undergone hormonal replacement therapy

How is migraine headache diagnosed?

There is no definite test to diagnose migraine headaches. Dallas pain management doctors arrive at a conclusion after inquiring patients about symptoms, headache frequency, and causation.

They may prescribe blood tests and MRI to check if there is any infection or tumor in the brain or spinal cord causing such pain. If reports show no such findings, doctors zero on migraine and suggest prevention and management.

What are the treatment methods available for migraine headache?

There is no medication available to cure migration headaches. However, there are preventive and pain management treatments available to reduce its frequency, intensity, and impact.

  • Medications:

Pain-relieving medications or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help abort or moderate migraine headache and inhibit ongoing symptoms. Preventive medications, such as antidepressants, are prescribed in regular dosages so that frequency and severity of attacks decrease. However, such medications have potential side effects for pregnant women and patients with incompatible medical conditions. Also, these drugs fail to subdue severe migraine attacks and may lead to addiction, gastrointestinal bleeding, and ulcers.

  • Alternative Therapy:

Many migraine patients resort to lifestyle changes and alterations in the food habit to prevent these painful headaches. They do regular exercises, develop better mental health, avoid trigger factors, and stop taking drugs that may cause similar symptoms.

  • Botox Injections:

In 2010, the FDA gave green signal to use of Botox injections as a migraine headache preventive method for those subject to the debilitating disorder for “more than 14 days every month.” Recommended by the American Headache Society, the procedure involves administration of 31 injections to seven different nerve points in the face, forehead, and neck. Botox prevents transmission of pain signals and blocks symptoms.

The treatment plan calls for injecting Botox once in three months over a period of 15 months. The relief is visible within two weeks of the first procedure. Trials at University of Granada Institute for Neuroscience reported in 2011 that these injections effected significant decline in “frequency, intensity, and scale of migraine attacks.” According to the Migraine Association of Ireland, patients experience “about 50 percent drop in frequency of migraine attacks and improved quality of life” after receiving Botox injections.

References

University of Granada. “Botox injected in head ‘trigger point’ shown to reduce migraine crises.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2011.

Migraine; Science Points to Unique Electrical Disorder of Brain Cells.” Pain & Central Nervous System Week. 01 Jul. 2000: 2425

About Migraines . (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2011, from American Migraine Foundation

Melissa Conrad Stoppler, M. (n.d.). Migraine Headache. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from Medicinenet

Jackson JL, Kuriyama A, Hayashino Y (April 2012). “Botulinum toxin A for prophylactic treatment of migraine and tension headaches in adults: a meta-analysis”. JAMA 307 (16): 1736–45. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.505.

Gilmore, B; Michael, M (2011-02-01). “Treatment of acute migraine headache”. American family physician 83 (3): 271–80.