Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of a migraine?
The pain is felt on just one side of the head and is often severe or extreme
Aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzagging lines, numbness, paralysis) experienced twenty to sixty minutes before onset of head pain
Inability to continue with your daily activities
Nausea and/or vomiting
Sensitivity to light and noise
What foods are known triggers of migraines?
Alcohol – beer, scotch, or bourbon, especially dark drinks like rum, red wine
Caffeine – found in coffee, tea, and sodas
Citrus fruits, dried fruits, bananas, and avocados
Dairy products, aged cheeses, etc.
Tyramine – found in fresh breads
Aspartame – an artificial sweetener known by its brand name ‘NutraSweet’
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – found in processed meat and Chinese food
What are some non-food triggers of migraines?
Stress is a major contributor to migraine headaches
Nicotine, whether ingested through cigars, cigarettes or chewing tobacco
Motion sickness caused by air travel or car trips can trigger a migraine
Fatigue as well as changes in sleep patterns. In addition, either too much sleep or too little sleep can trigger headaches
Birth control pills can trigger migraines in some women
Hormonal changes at the time of ovulation or at the start of the menstrual cycle can trigger migraines for many women
Fasting or missing a meal can trigger a migraine because of low blood sugar
Changes in the weather or altitude can trigger a migraine headache
When I should think about seeing a doctor about my migraine headaches?
If the headache occurs suddenly and can be described as severe
Any headache that results in a period of confusion or a loss of consciousness should result in immediate medical attention
If the headache impairs your ability to function in a normal manner at work, home or during social functions
If the headache is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances including hallucinations, or sensitivity to light and sound
If the pain is felt on just one side of the head
When the headache is accompanied by pain in the eye or behind the ear
If the headache bares any similarity to headaches that other members of your family suffer
When the headache results in numbness, paralysis or weakness in the legs and arms
If the headache has a definite pattern to it; for instance, a pattern in which the time of the day it occurs, the circumstances under which it occurs or the length of time you experience the pain is similar
If the headache becomes persistent, especially if you have not been a headache sufferer up to this point
What’s the first thing I should when a migraine hits?
Take medicine as directed by your health care provider
Turn off the lights, close the shades, draw the curtains and lie down on a comfortable bed
Apply an ice pack to the area of pain
What’s the best medication for a migraine?
There are a multitude of drugs on the market with the potential to help in the prevention of migraine headaches. The following list contains those drugs that have been shown to work best:
Beta-blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and nadolol (Corgard) have been shown to be relatively safe and effective. Metoprolol (Lopressor) and atenolol (Tenormin) are alternative drugs in the same class
Anticonvulsants have been used in the treatment of migraines. Valproate (Depakote and other brand names) tops the list in terms of research backing up its effectiveness, but babapentin (Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax) are also considered effective
Tricyclic antidepressants can be quite effective, but come with the price of side effects that include sedation, blurred vision, dry mouth and constipation. The best choice here is typically thought to be amitriptyline (Elavil), though many other sufferers swear by nortriptyline (Norpramin).
Serotonin antagonists such as methysergide (Sansert) have proven a solid treatment for many, but come with potentially serious side effects
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