Although less common than tension-type headaches, migraines afflict 25 million to 30 million Americans, according to the American Council for Headache Education. Up to 18% of all women and as many as 6% of all men experience a migraine headache at some time in their lives.
Eddie L. Patton Jr., M.D., neurologist with Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates, suggests that many recurring, significant headaches are likely migraines and that there is a current push among physicians to more accurately diagnose migraines. “For example, the majority of sinus headaches are really migraine headaches,” says Dr. Patton.
A migraine headache typically features pounding pain that occurs on one or both sides of the head and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Sufferers often find that activity, bright light and noise make their symptoms worse. One unusual trait of migraines is the aura — a distortion of vision, hearing, taste or smell that may tip off some sufferers that a migraine is about to occur. Some migraine sufferers experience residual effects of the headache, such as a day or two of exhaustion after the headache has faded.
Roughly three out of four migraine sufferers are women. According to Dr. Patton, “Migraine triggers may include hormonal changes, skipping meals, specific foods, inconsistent sleep patterns, alcohol use, stress and overuse of some pain medicines.”
Migraine treatments fall into two classes—medications that stop pain once it’s started and those that reduce or prevent migraines before they start. Along with diet and lifestyle modifications, a variety of prescription medications— including cardiovascular drugs, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-seizure medications—may help prevent or alleviate migraine symptoms. Preventive treatment of ongoing migraines avoids daily reliance on pain relievers.
For an appointment with Dr. Patton or another neurologist with Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates, call 281-494-6387.