If you’ve ever had to miss school or work because of a migraine, you know these intense headaches are rarely alleviated by over-the-counter medications
like ibuprofen. It’s important to know there are many treatment options that can help.
Migraines and other types of headaches have similar characteristics, explains Dan Cacioppo, M.D., a neurologist and migraine expert with NCH Medical Group.
All headaches can be painful, they can come on without warning, and they can last for several hours.
But unlike other headaches, migraines can have associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. At times, people experience
“auras” associated with the onset of the migraine; that is, they may see bright spots or wavy lines or feel dizzy, weak or numb.
If bad headaches interfere with your life, talk to your primary care physician or make an appointment with a neurologist. Your doctor will take your
medical history and ask you questions about your headaches and accompanying symptoms. He or she may order an MRI of the brain as well.
“We want to figure out if it’s a benign [not associated with a serious illness] form of headache, such as a migraine, tension type or sinus-related
headache,” Dr. Cacioppo says. “And we also want to make sure we aren’t dealing with something much less likely but more worrisome, such as a brain tumor.”
Prevention and Treatment
Sometimes, a migraine’s cause is a mystery, but there are several common triggers. Certain foods, not getting enough sleep, weather extremes and stress can
bring on migraines. And women, who are more frequently diagnosed with migraines than men, often notice that their migraines are tied to their menstrual
The first step is often to learn—and then avoid—your triggers. Failing that, medications may be effective at two junctures. “One is to prevent migraines
with daily medication,” Dr. Cacioppo says, “and the second is to have medication on hand to treat the headache once it begins.”
Most people, he notes, end up with a combination of both. In addition, acupuncture, chiropractic care and other complementary therapies may offer relief
for some people. The most important thing is to see a doctor.
“If you’re getting chronic headaches, they could be migraines. Come in and see a specialist,” Dr. Cacioppo says. “We can’t cure migraines, but we can work
with you to help you control them.”
NCH Knows Neuro
To learn more about Northwest Community Healthcare’s advanced neurological care, click here.
Neurolologist with NCH Medical Group
Medical school: Rush Medical College
Residency: Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Ariz.
Board-certified: Psychiatry and vascular neurology