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5 Fast Facts About Migraines

Migraines affect 1 billion people worldwide, including 39 million Americans. The Migraine Research Foundation estimates that 1 in 4 U.S. households have someone who suffers from this condition. Here are five fast facts about migraines that every patient should know.

What Is a Migraine?

Researchers believe that migraines are caused by an abnormal stimulation of the nerves that control sensation. In addition to causing a severe, throbbing headache, migraines can also cause visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, speech disturbances, sensitivity to light or sound, and tingling or numbness in the extremities and face.

Who’s Affected By Migraines?

Women are much more likely to suffer from migraines than men because hormonal fluctuations tend to trigger migraines. Researchers estimate that 18% of women, 6% of men, and 10% of children in the U.S. suffer from migraines. Migraines are also more common in patients ages 25-55, patients who are Caucasian, and patients who have a family history of migraines.

How Are Migraines Diagnosed?

Patients who are experiencing a severe headache and/or neurologic symptoms need immediate medical attention, since these symptoms can be caused by life-threatening conditions like strokes, aneurysms and brain infections. Once a life-threatening condition is ruled out, a migraine diagnosis can be made based on patients’ symptoms and exam findings.

How Are Migraines Treated?

Thankfully, there are many migraine treatment options. These include over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, triptans (a class of medications developed specifically to treat migraines), steroids, as well as antiemetics to relieve nausea and vomiting.

Can Migraines Be Prevented?

In a word, yes! Many migraines can be effectively prevented. Patients who experience frequent migraines can see a neurologist to get a prescription for migraine prophylaxis -- a medication taken once a day to prevent migraines (or at least make them much less frequent.)

Women who have menstrual or hormonal migraines can see their Ob/GYN to evaluate options to decrease monthly hormonal fluctuations.

And patients can also try to identify migraine triggers -- like foods, scents, medications, stress levels and sleep variations -- so they can avoid these triggers in the future.

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