Specialists Offer Tips to Prevent Migraines
About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraines, according to the National Library of Medicine. Although that may not seem like a large number, it equates to approximately 38 million people.
Because June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month, neurologists at Hattiesburg Clinic are offering tips for preventing migraines.
“Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, and often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound and other symptoms,” said Wendell R. Helveston, MD, a neurologist at Hattiesburg Clinic Neurology.
Dr. Helveston said a migraine is more than just a bad headache, adding that an attack could last anywhere between 4 and 72 hours.
“Although symptoms depend on the person and the attack, a migraine can be incapacitating and relentless,” he said.
For those who suffer from migraines, Helveston offered tips to avoid common triggers:
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Establish a healthy sleep pattern.
- Avoid too much caffeine or cutting back suddenly.
- Do not skip meals and be mindful of certain foods and drinks.
- Avoid smoking or being around smoke.
- Be cautious of your exercise routine. (Exercise can be a trigger for some, but you can still do it. Ask your doctor.)
Dr. Helveston explained some potential triggers might not be avoided, such as menstrual periods or changes in the weather. He also pointed out that these triggers are not the same for everyone and that the best way to learn your own triggers is to track the migraines in a diary.
“Be sure to note what you were doing before and at the time of the headache, what you were eating, if there was a stressful event that day, whether you had plenty of sleep, etc.”
But what about when the migraines become an ongoing struggle, with attacks occurring multiple times a week?
Dr. Helveston said that would likely be diagnosed as chronic migraine, a condition with eight or more chronic migraine days per month within at least a three-month period.
He noted that although migraine sufferers should be vigilant in avoiding their triggers and can treat migraines as they come with over-the-counter medications, there is currently only one FDA-approved medication to prevent chronic migraine.
“Botox® is a neurotoxin that we inject into the muscles of the forehead, side and back of the head and neck. The goal is to block the pain signals and allow the muscles to relax. The treatments are given once every 90 days.”
“It’s not just for cosmetic use anymore. Our patients are finding success with it as a way to prevent these headaches that leave them debilitated for hours or days,” said Dr. Fernandez. “I have had patients say that it’s given them their life back.”
Lana Weil, a resident of Seminary, Miss., and patient of Dr. Helveston, said she was living with chronic migraine for about seven years prior to getting Botox®. She said up to that point, she had been using over-the-counter medications but nothing helped.
Weil said the treatments have been “amazingly effective” and that there has been a “drastic change” in her quality of life. She said she recommends it to anyone who, like her, battles migraines often.
Since it was approved by the FDA in 2010, more than 100,000 people with chronic migraine have been treated with Botox®.
“It’s easier to get ahead of the headache and catch it before it starts, rather than trying to treat it during a chronic migraine episode,” said Helveston.
The physicians said Botox® treatment typically continues to reduce the number of headache days each month with each round of treatment.
To learn more about migraine treatment, visit www.hattiesburgclinic.com/botox or call 601-268-5620.