Video Q & A:

Migraine 101

Question:

What is a migraine headache?

Expert:   Lawrence C. Newman, MD, Director, The Headache Institute, Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Migraines are mistaken for other types of headaches, but really, they're in a class on their own. Check out this video to learn what makes them so distinctive, and unfortunately, debilitating.

Transcript: A migraine isn’t your average, pop-an-aspirin ailment—it’s a NEUROLOGICAL disorder. Migraine headaches are VERY severe, usually involving an intense, throbbing pain on one side of your head. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, distorted vision and sensitivity to light or sounds. Migraines can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and many people can’t even get out of BED during that time because movement often makes the pain WORSE. Researchers aren’t too clear on the CAUSE of migraines. For a long time, they believed that constriction and dilation of the brain’s blood vessels was the likely reason, but we now know that these blood vessel changes are the result of the headache not the cause. A new theory involves: A combination of genetic abnormalities, Interactions between the brainstem and a major nerve, AND the levels of important brain chemicals called serotonin and CGRP, which affect blood vessel dilation and cause inflammation. What’s more IMMEDIATELY important to those who GET migraines, though, is what PROVOKES an attack. Triggers include certain foods and beverages, allergic reactions, hormone fluctuation, stress, environmental changes and various medications. More than 36 million Americans get migraines, and they affect THREE times as many women as men. What’s more, three and a half million CHILDREN, get migraines also. And, your chance of getting migraines is higher if a family member also gets them. With migraines affecting so many people, it makes sense that there is a HUGE range of treatments available. There are 2 general categories. Preventative treatments include everything from medications and stress management techniques to lifestyle changes that are used to decrease the frequency of attacks. ABORTIVE medicines treat a migraine when it does develop. If you think you might be experiencing migraines, go get an evaluation from your doctor. There are effective treatments. More »

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