A migraine is a severe, painful headache that is often preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days. Migraine headaches result from a combination of blood vessel enlargement and the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around these blood vessels. During the headache, an artery enlarges that is located on the outside of the skull just under the skin of the temple (temporal artery). This causes a release of chemicals that cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery.
A migraine headache causes the sympathetic nervous system to respond with feelings of nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This response also delays the emptying of the stomach into the small intestine (affecting food absorption), decreases blood circulation (leading to cold hands and feet), and increases sensitivity to light and sound. More than 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, and females are much more likely to get them than males.
At Phoenix Family Medical Clinic, we get to the root causes of migraines and work with the patient to provide relief in frequency and intensity of the migraines. Family history is very important to share with your doctor since 70% of migraine sufferers have a close family member as a sufferer as well.
The doctors at Phoenix Family Medical Clinic treat migraines using a combination of prescription medication, exercise, diet and nutrition, stress relief and shots.
If you spot a migraine in its very earliest stages, you may be able to control it with nonprescription pain relievers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and a combination of pain medications and caffeine are all effective - if you take a full dose very early in the attack. The anti-nausea drug metoclopramide (Reglan) may enhance the activity of NSAIDs.
When prescription drugs are needed, our doctors turn to the triptans, which are available as tablets, nasal sprays, or as injections that patients can learn to give to themselves. Examples include sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and rizatriptan (Maxalt). Triptans provide complete relief within two hours for up to 70% of patients; the response is best if treatment is started early. Some patients require a second dose within 12 to 24 hours. Because the triptans can affect blood flow to the heart as well as the head, patients with coronary artery disease or major heart disease risk factors should not use them. Patients who take antidepressants in the SSRI family cannot use triptans.