New developments for migraine treatment

Migraines are experienced by millions of individuals and constitute a significant impairment for those who are affected. In many cases, migraines are severe enough that they may be considered a disabling impairment.

Migraines are the most common form of reoccurring and persistent headache, estimated to affect 15% of the population and three times as many women than men.

Yet many do not seek professional medical care for their migraines, and it is estimated that doctors overlook the condition in as many as half of those who seek help.

Migraines are usually characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head, and can last for as long as 72 hours. They can include nausea, vomiting, difficulty with movement, and sensitivity to light and sound. They are linked to hormonal changes and seem to be hereditary. Triggers include weather changes, not sleeping enough or over-sleeping, missing meals, and drinking alcohol.

The World Health Organization even considers the most severe migraines as debilitating as being psychotic or quadriplegic. Most patients take basic over-the-counter non-steroidal pain medications and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or aspirin to treat the symptoms after the onset of a migraine.

Being in a quiet, dark room also seems to help subside a migraine attack. But these tactics do not prevent migraines and often have limited effectiveness in ending an attack, especially for those who suffer more severe migraines.

There are more powerful prescription medications that are more effective at treating migraines - but only in about half of all patients. Triptans can be taken after a migraine begins to alter brain chemistry and ease the symptoms. Other medications are available to help prevent the occurrence of migraines.

Very few people are actually on these medications, in part because they have a high risk of negative side effects. Topiramate, a new preventative medication, causes cognitive problems in one out of five patients. Plus, triptans and similar drugs work by constricting blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly in patients who are vulnerable to these conditions.

There is hope, however, as new preventative medications are in development. These are gap junction blockers, altering brain chemistry at points where nerve cells interact. It seems these medications may limit overactive nerve cells thought to cause migraines. New treatment drugs are also in development. These block a brain chemical that has higher levels in those with migraines. Trial results show fewer side effects and better success rates than drugs currently on the market. It seems the future of drug treatments is bright for migraine sufferers.

by : Tim Moore
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