Video Q & A:

Prevention 101

Question:

How do beta-blockers prevent migraine?

Expert:   Joshua Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. , St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Beta-blockers weren't originally used to treat headache pains. They're were designed to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. But in turns out they also reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Learn how!

Transcript: BETA-BLOCKERS weren’t originally used against the headache. They’re were designed to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. But in the 1960s doctors discovered—quite by accident—that beta-blockers also reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Researchers aren’t sure WHY they work against migraine, although they do for MANY people. One study found that it had a 50 PERCENT success rate in decreasing the regularity of attacks. Beta-blockers relax blood vessels, so researchers THEORIZE that they regulate the blood vessels in the brain that expand and contract during a migraine attack. Propanolol and timolol are the TWO beta-blockers APPROVED by the Food & Drug Administration specifically for migraine prevention use. BUT, three others—atenolol, metoprolol and nadolol—are ALSO being looked at for their prevention benefits. People with asthma or diabetes may want to avoid beta-blockers. When people DO have side effects as a result, common ones include fatigue, cold hands, diarrhea and dizziness. Talk with your doctor if you’re curious about beta-blockers for your migraine prevention plan. Remember that you only NEED migraine prevention medicine if you’re having headaches at least 15 days per month. More »

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