A Complete Guide to Chronic Migraines
Migraines are not mere headaches.
A migraine is a serious, debilitating condition that affects 1-in-4 U.S. households.
In addition, chronic migraines affect 12 percent of the population, making it the third most prevalent illness in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
As internal medicine physicians in Cary, we are keenly aware of how migraines can have a devastating effect on your everyday life, which is why we have provided this useful-comprehensive guide to help you.
You may be surprised by how common migraines are among Americans and the world population. For example, according to the Migraine Research Foundation:
- An estimated 1.2 million emergency room visits are due to acute migraine attacks.
- More than 90 percent of those with migraines have symptoms that are so severe they are unable to work and perform tasks of daily living.
- Migraines are more common among women. Roughly 18 percent of American women, as opposed to 6 percent of American men, have serious migraines.
- Children can also have migraines, and in the U.S., an estimated 10 percent of children experience them on a regular basis.
- Migraines tend to run in families because 90 percent of those with migraines have a relative who also had the condition.
- An aura, which is a visual disturbance, is present in 25 percent of migraine cases. The aura usually lasts less than an hour.
- In the U.S., 157 million workdays are lost annually due to chronic migraines.
What Makes a Migraine Different From a Bad Headache?
A migraine is a neurological disorder accompanied by symptoms that can be so severe, that they are incapacitating.
Researchers believe that a combination of genetics, disorders of nerve pathways, and brain chemicals are the main components of a migraine, and these make it different from a generic headache. As a result of these neurological symptoms, it’s often difficult for those who are affected to work, go to school or function as they normally would.
Migraines also have a wide range of symptoms, and these may vary from person to person. Only an experienced physician can accurately diagnose a migraine. This is one reason that it is important to schedule an appointment with one of our expert internal medicine physicians in Cary. We’ll be able to take into account the totality of your overall symptoms to form an accurate diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan tailored for you.
Typically, migraine symptoms include:
- Severe pain or throbbing on one or both sides of the head
- Numbness in hands, feet or face
- Sensitivity to light, touch, sound and smell
- Visual problems/disturbances
Attacks typically last anywhere from 4-to-72 hours.
What Causes Migraines?
Research has been ongoing into the cause of migraines and there may actually be several potential reasons that migraines are “triggered” in certain people.
According to Johns Hopkins University, some theories focus around the role of brain cells that can contribute to migraine pain. When certain brain cells are excited, they release chemicals such as serotonin that may narrow blood vessels, causing them to expand and contract, resulting in the pain experienced during a migraine.
For women, these brain cells may also cause fluctuations in estrogen levels, which can also contribute to migraine issues.
What Can Trigger a Migraine?
The reasons for migraines are extremely varied, and our internal medicine physicians in Cary will work closely with you to determine the cause of your pain.
However, some of the most common triggers include:
- Sleep difficulties or changes in sleep patterns
- Flickering lights
- Strong smells or odors related to smoke/pollution
- Motion sickness
- Bright sunlight
- Hormonal changes
Can certain foods trigger migraines?
While scientists are still studying if there are direct correlations between foods and migraines, certain foods seem to stimulate headaches or can combine with other factors to trigger a migraine.
These foods include:
- Aged cheeses – According to the Cleveland Clinic, aged cheeses have tyramine, which is formed when protein is broken down as foods age. Cheeses high in tyramine can trigger migraines. This includes cheeses such as brie, cheddar, feta, blue cheeses and Parmesan.
- Processed foods – Artificial sweeteners, MSG and nitrates can be contributing factors.
- Fresh yeast bread
- Alcohol – Red wine is high in tyramine, which can contribute to migraine problems.
- Salty foods
In addition, the absence of food – such as skipping meals or fasting – can also trigger a migraine.
Why Do Some People Get Migraines?
While research is still ongoing, there may be a neurological connection for what makes some people more susceptible to migraines. Genetics are also a factor—90 percent of those with migraines have a family history of it.
How can I determine the source of my migraines?
We can help you.
As internal medicine physicians in Cary, we focus on how all the systems of your body interact. By encouraging wellness, we seek to be lifetime partners in your care.
The only way to truly determine what is causing your migraine is to speak with your doctor.
Our internal medicine physicians at Cary Medical Group take a comprehensive view of your overall health enabling us to create a tailored plan for you. We’ll work closely with you to pinpoint the cause of your migraines and craft an effective solution.
How Are Migraines Treated?
Because there is no one cause for migraines, treatment depends upon the individual patient’s situation, triggers and medical history. As internal medicine physicians, we are a natural choice for determining the cause of your migraines and prescribing the appropriate treatment.
In general, some of the methods we may use to treat migraines include:
For many, the right medication can provide the relief needed.
There are different types of medications and pain relievers available, and we will tailor our approach to best serve you.
Many of the newer medications can greatly reduce or eliminate the number of migraines.
If stress is the source of your migraines, relaxation techniques may help. Of course, this depends upon what triggers your migraines, and that can only be determined by one of our internal medicine physicians.
Researchers believe this may be best used as a preventative technique. We always encourage all our patients to have a healthy and regular exercise routine regardless of whether or not they have migraines. Not sure where to get started? We can create an exercise plan that’s right for you to help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
The bottom line is there are many different ways to approach migraine treatment, which is why we want to meet with you to discuss your particular situation. We believe that each treatment plan should be individualized, appropriate and effective.
Cary Medical Group: Solutions for Migraines
Quite simply, chronic migraines ruin your quality of life. As internal medicine physicians in Cary, we want those with migraines to know that we have effective and safe solutions to your issues that can dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of migraines you have.
For more than 25 years, Cary residents and those throughout the Triangle area have trusted us as their provider of choice. We invite you to discover why, by scheduling an appointment today.