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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Dealing With Migraine?

Healthy Living
The headaches may start slowly, not interfering with your life. But as they progress, you find it more and more difficult to function socially, at home and at work. Many people with migraine endure long periods of suffering before finally seeking help. In fact, physicians estimate that the average migraine patient suffers three to five years before a diagnosis is made.
Everyone has an occasional headache, but migraine is more than just a "bad headache." Affecting over 26 million Americans, migraine is a debilitating, intense, throbbing headache, usually located on one side of the head and lasting between 4 and 24 hours. It is aggravated by routine movement and physical exertion. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light or sound, general discomfort and diarrhea. In 10 to 20 percent of sufferers, the migraine is preceded by an 'aura,'such as the appearance of lights, blind spots, vision loss or numbness.
Migraine affects three times as many women as men, and an estimated one in six American women are prone to it. If one percent has migraine, the children have a 50 percent chance of getting the condition. "No one really knows what causes migraine," says John J. Sand, M.D., a neurologist who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. "The present theory is that migraine is a neurochemical imbalance that can be triggered by a variety of dietary, environmental and emotional factors."
About 20 percent of migraine sufferers have their first symptoms before the age of ten, but the problem may not always be obvious. "Children and young teenagers do not always articulate how they feel. If you observe them spontneously going to their room to lie down with headaches, or if you find that they are vomiting as a result of their headaches, then you should suspect migraine," says Dr. Sand.


Treatment: Control, Not Cure
Effective methods for managing migraine are available, however, it is hard to predict which one will work for each patient. Some of them, including beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants and calcium channel blockers, reduce the frequency of attacks.

Common Triggers of Migraine
Certain foods and situations may set off a migraine. These include bright lights, loud noises. strong emotions, stress and exhaustion. Keeping a diary of when you get your migraine headache may help to identify potential triggers and allow you to avoid them. The following list pinpoints some common migraine triggers:
Foods:
  • Aged, canned, cured or processed meat
  • Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
  • Caffeinated foods or drink
  • Aged cheeses, sour cream, whole milk, yogurt, ice cream
  • Nuts, peanuts, peanut butter
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Soy sauce
  • Carob, chocolate and cocoa
Other Triggers:
  • Missing meals, dieting
  • Being tired, stressed or depressed
  • Menstrual periods
  • Birth control pills or hormones
  • Weather and altitude changes
As soon as an attack begins, abortive medication should be taken to relieve symptoms. These pain-relieving medicines range from aspirin and acetaminophen to prescription medications such as sumatriptan, a constrictor of blood vessels. Be careful with any medication you take - its overuse can lead to daily rebound headaches.
A number of non-drug approaches are potentially helpful, including stress reduction techniques (such as deep breathing exercises and meditation), and getting plenty of sleep. Other tips on reducing the pain of an attack are: lying in a dark, quiet room; sleeping; and putting a cold compress over your forehead.

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