Do you often find yourself missing work, school, or family functions due to migraines? You’re not alone.
Over 100 million people in the U.S. suffer from headaches, and about 37 million experience debilitating migraines—a genetic neurological disease, characterized by episodes often called Migraine attacks. While mystery still surrounds migraines, new information about the disease has surfaced within the past decade. We have some facts for you—from triggers to treatments—and how to get the help you’ve been searching for. You no longer have to suffer in silence.
Who Gets Them?
Thirteen percent of adults in the U.S. experience migraines, and 2 to 3 million migraine sufferers are chronic. In addition, the World Health Organization suggests that 18 percent of women and 7 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from migraines. For many, migraines start after puberty and then frequency dwindles after age 45.
What Triggers Them?
Depending on the migraine sufferer, triggers and symptoms differ. People who have migraines must first understand what triggers them so they can find ways to prevent or manage the associated pain.
Some common triggers include dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, hormones, bright lights, loud noises, high altitudes, or strong odors (e.g.: scented candles). Certain foods and alcohol can also be triggers, such as:
- Foods with nitrates, like hot dogs and lunch meats
- Foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer found in fast foods, broths, seasonings, and spices
- Foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, and smoked fish
- Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®)
- Alcohol (often red wine)
How Can You Be Proactive?
Keep a migraine journal for a month to discover triggers. For example, note how much water you drink per day, if you’re under stress, consider keeping track of how much sleep you're getting every night, and what you’re eating and drinking. Women should also write down the times of their menstrual cycle; not only the first day, but every day of their period.
Also include in your journal the time every migraine starts, where you were and what you were doing, and how long the migraine lasted. By being proactive, this will allow you to start taking control of your migraines, instead of letting them control you. All of this information will also be useful to share with your doctor.
What are the Symptoms?
A large number of symptoms accompany migraines, including:
- Light sensitivity
- Pain on one side
- Sound sensitivity
- Throbbing, pulsating pain
- Vision changes, blurred vision
Other symptoms include:
- Cloudy vision or other vision changes
- Dizziness or dizzy spells
- Sensitivity to smell
- Stiff neck
How Long Do Migraines Last?
“Migraines can last anywhere from few hours to several weeks and they are called ‘status migranosus,’” says Dr. Prashanth Manjunath, one of the region’s leading pain management specialists at Bingham Memorial Hospital. “These can be debilitating and very difficult to manage.”
The range of time someone is affected by an attack is actually longer than the migraine itself, as there can be four stages: the pre-monitory, or build-up phase, aura, headache, and a postdrome, also referred to as a “migraine hangover,” that can last one to two days.
How They’re Treated
There’s no known cure for migraines. However, current treatments focus on prevention and relief, and migraines can be managed with a doctor’s help. More than 100 drugs, devices, surgical procedures, and even Botox are options, which means working closely with your doctor to determine the right one for you. Together, you will find ways to treat migraine symptoms when they happen, as well as ways to help make your migraines less frequent and severe.
It’s important that if you know someone who suffers from migraines to be sensitive to their condition. Almost 5 million people in the U.S. experience at least one migraine attack per month, while more than 11 million people blame migraines for causing moderate to severe disability.
The Help You’ve Been Searching For
If you have migraines once a week, and over-the-counter pain relievers aren’t helping, see a doctor or a headache specialist. One of the most frustrating things for migraine sufferers is to find a doctor who can understand and help them. Bingham Memorial’s Dr. Prashanth Manjunath is eastern Idaho’s leading migraine and pain management specialist. He researches new medical advances in treating headaches and migraines and compassionately answers any questions you might have about your pain. He offers a variety of techniques to prevent headaches and migraines and successful ways to manage them, such as key stress reduction exercises.
Dr. Manjunath sees patients in Blackfoot and Pocatello. To schedule an appointment, please call (208) 782-3701.
Our content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.