How Are Migraines Diagnosed and Treated?
Migraine Diagnosis and Treatment
People who suffer from migraine headaches will go to great lengths to find relief from the pain and other symptoms of their disorder. Fortunately, medical experts are advancing the field of migraine pain medicine and migraine headache treatment.
How a Migraine is Diagnosed
There are several ways to diagnose migraine headaches. The diagnosis will probably be given by a neurologist who specializes in headaches. They will take the patient’s medical history, and listen to their symptoms.
They may also order other tests if the patient’s symptoms worsen or become unusual. These include blood tests, which can find problems in the patient’s blood vessels and central nervous system and check for toxins.
Other diagnostic tools are CT scans, MRIs and lumbar punctures. These tests are used to rule out brain bleeds, stroke, tumors and other problems.
Migraine Headache Treatment
The purpose of these treatments is not only to ease the pain, nausea and vomiting, numbness, tingling and other symptoms but to prevent future episodes. There is acute migraine treatment and chronic migraine treatment.
The drugs for acute migraine treatment are meant to stop the pain during an attack. Drugs for chronic migraine treatment are given to people who have regular migraines and are meant to lower the frequency of the headaches and ease the severity of the pain.
Doctors prescribe migraine headache treatment depending on how severe the patient’s symptoms are, whether the headaches are debilitating and any other comorbidities or conditions the patient has. For example, children and women who are pregnant or nursing should not take certain migraine headache drugs.
Medicines for Severe Migraine Relief
Medicines for severe migraine relief include triptans. Doctors believe that the pain of a migraine is caused when blood vessels in the head suddenly open up. Triptans narrow the blood vessels and ease the pain. Triptans can be taken orally, injected or taken as nasal sprays.
Ergot-based migraine pain medicine is usually taken for pain that lasts for more than two days. It should be taken right when the pain starts, but it has a side effect of making nausea and vomiting that accompanies migraine headaches worse than usual. Fortunately, ergot-based drugs can be taken with anti-nausea medications.
Doctors prescribe opioids for people who can’t tolerate ergot-based drugs or triptans. Opioids can be addictive and should only be taken when no other relief works.
Doctors prescribe preventative medicines for people who have chronic migraines. This means they have four or more attacks every month that are so severe that they can’t function normally. Their attacks also need to last more than 12 hours and do not respond to regular medications. These people also have numbness, weakness, and a long-lasting aura, or a period before the pain starts where they may see zig-zagging lights or other phenomena.
Preventative drugs are taken daily or when the patient is at high risk of having a migraine. In women, this often means the time just before their menstrual period.
These drugs include beta blockers, which are used for cardiovascular problems; antidepressants; anti-seizure drugs; powerful migraine pain medicine and erenumab-aooe, a drug that the patient injects once a month. This drug stops the action of a molecule that helps to cause migraines.
Another interesting migraine treatment is Botox. Botox works by paralyzing muscles, and the doctor injects it into the muscles in the patient’s neck and forehead. The muscles relax and relieve the pain.
The problem with some of these preventative drugs is that many of them have side effects. After a period of successfully taking them, the doctor may want to wean the patient off of these drugs and see how it affects their headaches.