Migraine Headache FAQs (cont.)
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How are migraine headaches treated?
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Self-care at home
Most migraineurs can deal with mild-to-moderate migraine attacks at home. The following measures may help relieve migraine headache pain:
Taking certain over-the-counter headache remedies: Note that none of the following (with the exception of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine combinations) has been clearly shown to relieve migraine headache pain.
Despite advances, migraines can be difficult to treat. About half of migraineurs stop seeking medical care for their headaches because they are dissatisfied with treatment results. This is unfortunate because the right drug or combination of drugs may eventually be found if the migraineur keeps visiting his or her doctor for follow-up visits.
Migraines can be treated with 2 approaches: abortive and preventive.
Abortive treatment medications include the triptans, which specifically target serotonin. They are all very similar in their action and chemical structure. The triptans are used only to treat headache pain and do not relieve pain from back problems, arthritis, menstruation, or other conditions.
The following drugs are also specific and affect serotonin, but they affect other brain chemicals. Occasionally, one of these drugs works when a triptan does not.
The following drugs are mainly used for nausea, but they sometimes have an abortive or preventive effect on headaches:
The next drugs are weak members of the narcotic class. They are not specific for migraine, but they can help relieve almost any kind of pain. Since they are habit forming, they are less desirable than the specific headache drugs listed above. These drugs should be used primarily as a "backup" for the occasions when a specific drug does not work.
Preventive: This type of treatment is considered if a migraineur has more than 1 migraine per week. The goal is to lessen the frequency and severity of the migraine attacks. Medication to prevent a migraine can be taken daily. Preventive treatment medications include the following:
Migraineurs must see their doctor regularly. Keeping a "pain journal" is often helpful to track how often attacks happen and what drugs were used to treat them. Sometimes it takes several doctor visits before an effective treatment plan is found.
Some migraineurs have been helped by alternative or complementary therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation, and herbal remedies, though none of these treatments is supported by reliable scientific evidence.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/18/2016
Edward Lubin, MD, PhD
Joseph Carcione Jr, DO, MBA
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
James H Halsey, MD
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Although migraine is a term applied to certain headaches with a vascular quality, overwhelming evidence suggests that migraine is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by varying degrees of recurrent vascular-quality headache, photophobia, sleep disruption, and depression. border=