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     Volume 4 Issue 30 | January 21, 2005 |

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What causes Migraine Headaches?

Migraine headaches seem to be caused in part by changes in the level of a body chemical called serotonin. Serotonin plays many roles in the body, and it can have an effect on the blood vessels. When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels constrict (shrink). When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels dilate (swell). This swelling can cause pain or other problems. Many things can affect the level of serotonin in your body, including your level of blood sugar, certain foods and changes in your estrogen level if you're a woman.

Are there different kinds of migraine headaches?
Yes. The most common are classic migraine and common migraine.
Classic migraines start with a warning sign, called an aura. The aura often involves changes in the way you see. You may see flashing lights and colors. You may temporarily lose some of your vision, such as your side vision.
You may also feel a strange prickly or burning sensation, or have muscle weakness on one side of your body. You may have trouble communicating. You may also feel depressed, irritable and restless.

Auras last about 15 to 30 minutes. Head pain usually follows the aura, though sometimes the pain and aura overlap, or the pain never occurs. The head pain of classic migraines may occur on one side of your head or on both sides.

Common migraines don't start with an aura. Common migraines may start more slowly than classic migraines, last longer and interfere more with daily activities. The pain of common migraines may be on only one side of your head.

Migraines may last from 4 to 72 hours. They may happen only once or twice a year, or as often as daily.

What things may set off a migraine?
Certain things that may contribute to migraines include the following:

*Strong odors, bright lights or loud noises
*Changes in weather or altitude
*Being tired, stressed or depressed or the let-down after a stressful event
*Changes in sleeping patterns or sleeping time
*Missing meals or fasting
*Menstrual periods, birth control pills or hormones

How are migraines treated?
There are 2 types of migraine treatments. Some treatments are used to relieve the

Tips on reducing the pain
* Lie down in a dark, quiet room.
* Put a cold compress or rag over your forehead.
* Massage your scalp using a lot of pressure.
* Put pressure on your temples.

headache pain. Most of these treatments should be started as soon as you think you're getting a migraine. The other group includes treatments that are used to prevent headaches before they occur.

Can nonprescription medicines help relieve the pain?
Yes. Nonprescription medicines can help migraine pain. They include aspirin, acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), an acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine combination (one brand name: Excedrin Migraine), ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin), naproxen (brand name: Aleve), and ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis KT).

What about prescription medicines?
People with more severe pain may need prescription medicine. A medicine called ergotamine (brand name: Ergostat) can be effective alone or combined with other medicines (some brand names: Cafergot, Ercaf, Wigraine). Dihydroergotamine (brand names: Migranal, D.H.E. 45) is related to ergotamine and can be helpful.

Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan (brand name: Imitrex), zolmitriptan (brand name: Zomig), naratriptan (brand name: Amerge) rizatriptan (brand name: Maxalt), almotriptan (brand name: Axert) and fravatriptan (brand name: Frova).

Many combinations of medicines (one brand name: Midrin) are also available.

If the pain won't go away, stronger medicine may be needed, such as a narcotic (brand name: Stadol nasal spray) or medicines that contain a barbiturate. These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously.

Can medicine help prevent migraines?
Yes. Medicine to prevent migraines may be helpful if your headaches happen more than twice a month or if your headaches make it hard for you to work and function. Examples of medicines used to prevent migraines include propranolol (brand name: Inderal), timolol (brand name: Blocadren), divalproex (brand name: Depakote) and some antidepressants.

What else can I do to prevent migraines?
Try to avoid foods or other things that seem to cause migraines for you. Get plenty of sleep. Try to relax and reduce the stress in your life.



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