Amaal Starling, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic, answers the important questions you may have about migraine.

Hi, I'm Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. And I'm here to answer some of the important questions that you might have about migraine.

Why doesn't migraine show up on MRI?

Migraine is a disease of abnormal function within the setting of normal brain structure. An MRI of the brain solely tells you about the structure of the brain but tells you very little about the function of the brain. And that is why migraine doesn't show up on an MRI. Because it's abnormal function in the setting of normal structure.

How can this much pain be just migraine?

Migraine is highly disabling for some individuals. In fact, it is the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Disabling symptoms are not just the pain, but also the sensitivity to light and sound, as well as the nausea and vomiting.

Do I need daily treatment if I don’t have daily attacks?

There is a wide range of disease severity in migraine. There are some people who only need a rescue or an acute treatment for migraine because they have infrequent migraine attacks. But there are other people who are having frequent migraine attacks, maybe two or three times a week. If they used rescue treatments for every attack, it could potentially lead to other complications. Those individuals need a preventive treatment regimen to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Those preventive treatments might be daily medications. They might be once a month injections or other injectable medications delivered once every three months.

What should I do on the days I can’t take my rescue medication?

This is why preventive treatment is so crucial. With preventive treatment, we can reduce the frequency as well as the severity of attacks so that you're not having attacks more than two times per week. However, for some individuals, despite preventive treatment, they may still have migraine symptoms more frequently throughout the week. For them, there are non-medication options for treating pain, such as biofeedback, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as a number of devices that are non-medication options for treating migraine pain.

Should I consider neurotoxin injections for migraine?

Yes, that is an option for the preventive treatment of chronic migraine. These onabotulinum toxin A injections are administered by your doctor once every 12 weeks to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. However, there are many different preventive treatment options. And it is important for you to speak with your doctor about which option is best for you.

How can I be the best partner to my medical team?

The best way to partner with your medical team is to, number one, get a medical team. Many people living with migraine have not even talked to a doctor about their symptoms. If you have headaches where you have to rest in a dark room, where you might get sick to your stomach. Please talk to your healthcare professional about your symptoms. You might have migraine and we can treat migraine. Migraine is a chronic disease. And to best manage this disease, patients need to understand the disease. This is why I prescribe advocacy to all of my patients. Learn about migraine, join patient advocacy organizations, share your journey with others, and become empowered through advocacy and efforts to shatter the stigma of migraine. And together, the patient and the medical team can manage the disease of migraine. Never hesitate to ask your medical team any questions or concerns that you have. Being informed makes all the difference. Thanks for your time and we wish you well.

July 29, 2022