Migraine headaches are usually present when a patient reports recurring, disabling headaches. At New Jersey Headache Institute we specialize in successfully treating migraine sufferers that have failed to experience relief from other treatments.
Treating Migraine Headaches
When they strike, migraines can alter your life. About 39% of migraine sufferers experience an impairment in their ability to perform daily tasks while 53% experience severe loss of function often including the necessity for bed rest. Only some 9% of patients suffering from recurring migraines maintain normal functionality.
At New Jersey Headache Institute we have seen how impact of migraine headaches extends beyond the sufferers themselves. Nationwide, the cost to American businesses of lost work due to migraines is estimated at more than 13 billion dollars annually. Fifty percent of female and 38% of male migraine sufferers miss at least a week every year due to their headache symptoms. Migraines are three times as common among women than men.
A link has been found between fluctuations in female hormones and the incidence of migraines. It is possible that hormonal changes are the reason for menstrual migraines. As many as 60% of female migraine sufferers experience the headaches during their menstrual cycle.
Most people who suffer migraine headaches are not receiving medical care. They are often under and mis-diagnosed. Self treatment with over the counter pain medication contributes to this under-diagnosing. Other disorders often associated with migraines include anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, strokes and epilepsy. Theses disorders share some traits with migraines and are sometimes treated with the same medications.
The migraine’s pathophysiology has never been understood. It’s aura is a phenomenon of the cerebral cortex, and the pain may be caused by a dysfunction of blood vessels supplied by the trigeminal nerve.
THE Four Phases of a Migraine
These four phases appear in most migraine headaches, but not all patients experience all of them during every episode. The four major phases are prodrome, aura, headache and resolution. Each is explained below in some detail:
The prodrome phase is categorized by symptoms preceding the onset of a migraine by as much as 24 hours. As many as 60% percent of migraine sufferers report prodrome phase symptoms. These symptoms could include diarrhea, constipation, excessive urination, neck pain, bloating, thirst, increased yawning and mood shifts. Phonophobia, photophobia and hyperosmia may also occur.
The aura phase occurs in 15% of migraine sufferers, and its presence before a headache virtually assures the presence of a migraine. This phase develops from five to twenty minutes and can last an hour. Visual auras are the most common and can include the appearance of shimmering waves or flashes of light. Neurological symptoms such as hemisparesis and paresthesias can appear as well.
The headache phase tends to be unilateral but becomes bilateral if the headache travels to another part of the head. The pulsing, throbbing pain can become worse with an increase in cranial pressure. Activities such as sneezing, coughing or physical exertion tend to increase the pain. The headache phase can also include secondary symptoms like dizziness, nausea and vomiting along with phonophobia and photophobia. Most patients want to lay in a dark quiet room during this phase.
During the resolution phase patients experience irritability, mood shifts and exhaustion.