Wednesday, April 07, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — A migraine is not your average headache. The pain of a migraine may feel dull, deep, intense or throbbing. That pain often sends migraine sufferers in search of a dark, quiet place to lie down. Untreated, migraines can last from four to 72 hours.
The April issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource provides an overview of migraine prevalence, causes, triggers, treatments and prevention. Highlights include:
Prevalence: An estimated 30 million Americans cope with migraine. Women outnumber men by 2 or 3 to 1.
Causes: The cause of migraine isn't fully understood, but both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Migraines often run in families.
Triggers: Many factors or events may trigger an attack, including stress; menstruation; use of oral contraceptives; changes in weather; going too long without eating; lack of sleep or too much sleep; bright lights, glare, loud noises or strong odors; alcohol; caffeine (too much or withdrawal); and certain foods (aged cheese, cured meats, chocolate, fried foods, others).
Medication: For mild to moderate migraine attacks, over-the-counter medications work well. They are most effective when taken as soon as symptoms begin. Options include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), and combination pain relievers such as Excedrin Migraine. For severe headaches, several prescription medications are options, too.
Other treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback training and relaxation techniques may make migraine medication more effective or reduce the need for it. Getting enough sleep, sticking with a regular schedule, eating regular meals, staying physically active, limiting alcohol and caffeine and managing stress also are important.
Prevention: Preventive treatment can reduce the headache burden by one-third to one-half or more. A doctor can discuss preventive medications that may be helpful, such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs. In addition, injections of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) into the scalp muscles can help prevent migraine. Injections need to be repeated every three months. The herbal products feverfew and butterbur may prevent migraine, through the benefits haven't been proved. Supplements of coenzyme Q10 may also be useful for some people.
Migraine is a chronic condition. Episodes can occur anywhere from one or twice a year to once or twice a week. Symptoms can be controlled by working with a primary health care provider.
Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit the Mayo Clinic Bookstore.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.
Learn more about becoming a patient at Mayo Clinic in the Patient & Visitor Guide.