Migraine Headaches- A Common but Undertreated Condition
It is estimated that migraine and other headache disorders affect 30-40 million Americans. The unfortunate fact is that only 50% of these individuals seek out treatment. It is one of the leading causes of missed time from work and social functions. Untreated migraines can have a devastating effect on affected individuals’ quality of life. Migraine is one of the leading causes of temporary total disability in the U.S. work force. This is an unfortunate statistic which could be dramatically improved with earlier recognition and more aggressive treatment of migraines and other disabling types of headache. The main features of the migraine syndrome are recurrent moderate to severe headaches that interfere with activity. Associated migraine symptoms include light and noise sensitivity, nausea, occasionally vomiting and sinus congestion. Most so called “sinus headaches” are actually migraines and have nothing to do with sinus problems whatsoever. Cluster headaches are the most severe form of headache. While considered a type of vascular headache, they are put in a different category to be differentiated from migraines. This is by the International Headache Society classification of all headache disorders.
Patients experiencing a migraine attack prefer to lay down in a quiet dark room with an ice pack on their head or neck. There are excellent, non-narcotic medications that can be used to abort a migraine attack. Migraine treatments to stop an acute attack include the triptan medications such as Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Frova, Axert and Amerge. There are other medications that can be used to prevent migraines from occurring. Topamax and Depakote have FDA approval for migraine prevention. The first step is for the patient to schedule an appointment with a headache and migraine specialist.