How to deal with migraines

March 28, 2017, 3:28 p.m

More than 20% of peo­ple suf­fer from this dis­ease. And most of them are women. Most often, migraine suf­fers at the age of 20–40, that is, at the most work­ing age. Unlike more seri­ous ill­ness­es like heart attacks or strokes, migraines are not life threat­en­ing. How­ev­er, it can great­ly poi­son a per­son­’s life.

Photo: Thinkstock/

Pho­to: Thinkstock/

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, mod­ern med­i­cine has not yet learned how to com­plete­ly cure this dis­ease. But we can sig­nif­i­cant­ly alle­vi­ate headaches and reduce the num­ber of attacks.

How to dis­tin­guish migraine from oth­er types of headache? It is char­ac­ter­ized by the fol­low­ing fea­tures:

  • The pain is intense, throb­bing, one-sided (that is, local­ized on the right or left).
  • Increas­es even with min­i­mal phys­i­cal exer­tion. For exam­ple, when walk­ing or bend­ing over.
  • Some­times accom­pa­nied by accom­pa­ny­ing symp­toms: nau­sea or vom­it­ing, as well as intol­er­ance to bright lights and loud sounds.
  • An attack can last a very long time — from 4 to 72 hours.

Alice in Won­der­land Syn­drome

Some­times the attack is pre­ced­ed by the appear­ance of tem­po­rary visu­al or tac­tile dis­tur­bances (the so-called aura). Usu­al­ly these are bright or iri­des­cent spots, a feel­ing of a veil before the eyes, or goose­bumps on the hands and face. But some­times the aura takes on unusu­al forms. Its rare vari­ety has even been called the Alice in Won­der­land syn­drome (after the book by Lewis Car­roll, which describes sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­na). In Alice syn­drome, the seizure is pre­ced­ed by visu­al images of peo­ple or ani­mals (remem­ber the Cheshire Cat?) float­ing in the air. In addi­tion, the patien­t’s per­cep­tion of the size of sur­round­ing objects tem­porar­i­ly changes (they seem huge or tiny to him), the sense of the pas­sage of time is dis­turbed.

Don’t take painkillers

If attacks are rare (1–2 times a month), anal­gesics (parac­eta­mol) and non-steroidal anti-inflam­ma­to­ry drugs (ibupro­fen, naprox­en) are usu­al­ly used to relieve headaches. In addi­tion, trip­tans are used — more effec­tive drugs specif­i­cal­ly designed to com­bat migraine. They quick­ly stop the pain. How­ev­er, if the attacks occur more often or last for a long time, painkillers can do harm. When tak­en more than 15 days a month, anal­gesics can, on the con­trary, increase headaches. There­fore, in such cas­es, doc­tors rec­om­mend pre­ven­tive ther­a­py — reg­u­lar use of drugs that reduce the num­ber of seizures and improve the body’s response to painkillers. As a rule, anti­de­pres­sants, antiepilep­tic drugs, beta-block­ers, as well as the drug bot­u­linum toxin‑A — Botox are pre­scribed. Usu­al­ly it is used in cos­me­tol­ogy. How­ev­er, doc­tors noticed that in patients who received Botox injec­tions, the fre­quen­cy of migraine attacks decreased. Sur­pris­ing but true!

Elim­i­nate provo­ca­teurs

Migraine headaches are often caused by spe­cif­ic pre­cip­i­tat­ing fac­tors (trig­gers). Among them are hor­mon­al changes, cer­tain foods (for exam­ple, red wine, cheese), hunger, dehy­dra­tion, lack or excess of sleep, exces­sive exer­cise, bright sun­light, anx­i­ety, depres­sion. Trig­gers tend to rein­force each oth­er’s action. There­fore, avoid­ing provo­ca­teurs is the eas­i­est and most effec­tive way to reduce the num­ber of seizures with­out med­ica­tion. Acupunc­ture, biofeed­back ther­a­py, and relax­ation are also help­ful in pre­vent­ing migraines.

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The opin­ion of the edi­tors may not coin­cide with the opin­ion of the author of the arti­cle.

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