Migraine Headaches – Risk Factors & Progression
Migraine headaches are one of the most common neurological problems seen. There are an estimated 30 million affected American patients. Despite its common occurrence, fifty percent of affected individuals remain untreated. Why are there so many patients with migraine? A new report in Neurology Reviews has shed some light on migraine risk factors and how they progress.
In this study, conducted by neurologist and headache specialist Dr. Richard Lipton, they found that patients with chronic daily headaches were more likely to be female, overweight and depressed. Other risk factors for daily headaches include head injuries and snoring. Patients also contribute to developing daily headaches by overusing analgesics such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetomenophen containing compounds – particularly those containing caffeine. Prescription medications containing narcotics, barbiturates and caffeine for migraine treatment also increased risk of more headaches. The overuse of all pain relievers results in rebound headaches. The more headaches you have the more medication you take – the more medication you take the more headaches you have. This cycle must be broken by stopping regular analgesic consumption.
Dietary factors play an important role migraine progression. Excessive caffeine or regular soda consumption constitute significantly to increased number of headaches. Major stress events clearly contribute to migraine progression. Obesity, defined by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30 was associated with a five times greater risk of developing chronic daily headache. The triptan medications, such as Imitrex, Maxalt and others, are excellent choices for treating acute migraine attacks. When they are overused, they can put a patient with frequent headaches at risk for progression to chronic daily headaches. In general, individuals with four headache days per month or less, who take any of the above medications, are not at risk for progression of their headaches to daily headache. If you have more that 4 headache days per month or frequently take pain relievers for headaches, you should see a neurologist headache specialist for evaluation and treatment. The first step to improve your quality of life is to pick up the phone and call.