Migraine is a neurological condition characterized by headaches that can be severe.  It is very common, affecting about 18% of women and 8% of men.  Most patients with migraine have throbbing headaches with nausea and vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound.  The pain from migraine can last for a few hours up to a few days.  While migraines are not a threat to your overall health, they can definitely interfere with your quality of life. 

What Causes Migraine?

The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but it may result from a chemical imbalance in the brain.  During a migraine attack, changes in brain chemicals lead to local dysfunction of parts of the brain and changes within blood vessel walls.  These changes lead to severe head pain and other symptoms detailed below.  There is a genetic predisposition to migraine, as it often runs in families. 


What are Symptoms of Migraine?

The most common symptom of migraine is headache.  This is usually one-sided and pounding, but can affect both sides and be steady.  It is frequently associated with nausea, vomiting, light-sensitivity, and sound-sensitivity.  The headache may last for several hours up to a few days.  Other symptoms that may accompany migraine include motion sickness, dizziness, smell-sensitivity, poor appetite, mood changes (such as irritability or depression), and tiredness, among others. 

What are Possible Eye Findings in Migraine?

While headache is the most common symptom of migraine, visual and other neurological symptoms may occur without the headache.  Rarely, migraine can cause double vision, eyelid droopiness, or changes in pupils size. Other neurologic symptoms may include difficulty speaking or understanding others, or weakness or numbness of the face or body.  These symptoms are rare and need to be investigated further by Dr. Banik to make sure that nothing else is going on. 

What is Migraine Aura?

Migraine aura is a special kind of neurological symptom that occurs just before the headache starts in up to 30% of people with migraine.  One of the most common types of aura is a visual aura.  The symptoms of visual aura vary from person to person, but many see zig-zag colored lights, flashes of light, or a “shimmering” blind spot lasting for 5 to 30 minutes followed by a severe headache.  These visual symptoms usually occur in both eyes, and may slowly move across the field of vision. 

Other types of aura include numbness or tingling on one side of the body or difficulty speaking.  If an aura lasts for more than 60 minutes, then you should seek medical attention.  Rarely, an aura can occur without a headache. 

What are Common Migraine Triggers?

Various things can trigger a migraine attack, and triggers vary from person to person.  Foods that can trigger migraine include cheeses (especially aged cheeses), nitrates (often found in cured meats, hot dogs, and other processed foods), chocolate, red wine, and monosodium glutamate (MSG, a flavor enhancer commonly found in Chinese food).  Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol may also trigger migraine in susceptible people.  Hormonal changes are frequently associated with changes in migraine attacks.  This is especially true with pregnancy, birth control pills, the menstrual cycle, or menopause.  Stress, dehydration, and poor sleep are also important factors in migraine. 

How is Migraine Diagnosed?

In most people, a careful history is sufficient to make the diagnosis of migraine.  This is particularly true if there is a family history of migraine and if the episodes fit the pattern of a typical migraine.  When someone’s pattern is atypical, especially if there are long-lasting visual symptoms, weakness, numbness, or trouble speaking then obtaining an MRI or other testing may be needed to look for other neurological problems.  Very, very rarely a migraine aura will not entirely resolve, which means that a stroke has occurred.  It is unusual for migraines to occur for the first time in older individuals (above the age of 50 is unusual), therefore if this occurs then Dr. Banik may recommend an MRI or other testing.* 

How is Migraine Treated? 

Dr. Banik strongly believes that the most important aspect of treating migraine is to avoid migraine triggers and to live a lifestyle that helps to minimize migraines.  Since each person’s migraine triggers are different than the next person’s, this plan of treatment must be tailored to each individual.  For many patients getting good sleep, maintaining adequate hydration, eating regular meals, doing regular aerobic exercise, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can make a major positive impact on their migraines.

Based on over 20 years of experience managing thousands of patients with migraine, as well as her own headaches which plagued her, Dr. Banik has developed a unqiue migraine program. Her personalized coaching program, called Conquer Your Headache has helped over 75% of her patients reduce their migraine frequency and severity. After getting an extensive and detailed migraine history, Dr. Banik creates a customized treatment plan for each of her migraine patients, including recommendations on nutrition, supplements, essential oils, meditation, movement, and additional lifestyle approaches. 

Dr. Banik also uses prescription migraine medications when necessary as an adjunct to her natural nutrition and lifestyle-based program. Prescription medications can be divided into acute and preventive treatments.  Acute migraine treatments are medications that are taken at the onset of a migraine attack with the goal of stopping it or decreasing its severity.  Patients who have very frequent migraine attacks must be careful about how often they use acute medications. Most acute migraine medications can cause rebound headache (also known as medication overuse headache) when taken more than three to four times per week.  Developing rebound headache can make the treatment of migraine even more difficult. 

Preventive migraine medications are taken on a daily basis (or multiple times per day) in order to reduce the frequency of attacks. There are also several over-the-counter supplements that are effective as migraine preventives, including riboflavin and magnesium.  Even though these medications are available over-the-counter, you should discuss them with Dr. Banik prior to taking them.    

Finding the optimal medication regimen for the treatment of migraine requires close communication between the migraine sufferer and his or her doctor. Dr. Banik makes sure to give each patient the attention and support needed to help conquer migraines and attain the best quality of life possible.

If you have questions about Dr. Banik’s Conquer Your Headache Program or would like to ask Dr. Banik some questons about your own migraine symptoms, be sure to schedule a complimentary phone consult.  Just click the button below. You will be glad you did!

*Adapted from www.nanosweb.org