Marc London, MD

New York Neurologist Marc London of Rockland Neurological Associates, P.C.
and on staff at Nyack Hospital addresses migraines and treatment options.

Nyack, N.Y. May 27, 2014  -  Migraines are known as particularly painful headaches. While there is no cure, there are a number of treatments, some of which can be taken to prevent a migraine from starting. More than 37 million Americans experience migraines. Women are three times as likely as men to suffer from these headaches. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of people who suffer from migraines have a family history of the headaches. They most commonly occur between the ages of 15 and 55. People with migraines often are incorrectly told they are suffering from sinus headaches or tension-type headaches.

Common triggers for migraines include:

  • Change in sleep-wake cycle
  • Missing or delaying a meal
  • Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives or nitroglycerin
  • Bright lights, TV or movie viewing
  • Certain foods, including aged cheeses, salty or processed foods, the artificial sweetener aspartame, wine or highly caffeinated beverages
  • Loud noise
  • Stress
  • Menstrual cycle                                                                                                                       

Some people who suffer from migraines also experience an aura—a warning sign before the pain begins. A person may see wavy lines, dots or flashing lights and blind spots. An aura may include a tingling sensation in the arm or face, or difficulty speaking.A person suffering from a migraine usually feels pain around the eye or temple. The pain may also be felt in the face, jaw, sinus or neck. An untreated migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours. It may be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting.

There is no test that can diagnose migraines. The doctor may order a CT scan or MRI to rule out other causes of the headaches. The doctor will ask about migraine-related symptoms and whether there is a family history of similar headaches.

Avoiding triggers that bring on migraines may help in reducing how often they occur. Your doctor may suggest you keep a journal to help figure out what brings them on. Some patients can be helped with biofeedback, which teaches people how to control physical processes related to stress. Using biofeedback may be able to stop an attack or reduce its effects.

There are over-the-counter and prescription medications available to treat migraines. These may include either ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If your migraines are not relieved by these medications, your doctor may recommend a prescription drug. Anti-inflammatory medicines help some people with migraines, but may cause side effects such as stomach problems. Other migraine drugs are available in many forms, including injectable medications, nasal sprays or tablets.

Drugs known as abortive medications are meant to be taken as soon as a person realizes they are having a migraine attack, before the pain becomes too intense. The drugs are meant to stop the attack. People who suffer from frequent migraine attacks may be prescribed preventive medications to reduce how often migraines occur.

For many people, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes can reduce the great discomfort caused by migraines. If you are experiencing frequent headaches, talk to your doctor to make sure you are receiving the best treatment available.

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Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.