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Port Jefferson, NY 11777

Migraine Headache

Migraines are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you regularly experience signs and symptoms of migraine attacks, keep a record of your attacks and how you treated them. Then make an appointment with Mather Neurology to discuss your headaches.

Even if you have a history of headaches, call Mather Neurology even if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different.

What is a Migraine?
Migraine is a common condition that has to do with the brain. It usually (though not always) involves a throbbing headache, sometimes on one side. The pain gets worse when you move.

Many people with migraines will have visual symptoms before having the pain. This is called a classic migraine. You may see zigzag lines, shimmering or colored lights, or flashes of light in one side of your vision. These symptoms can last up to 30 minutes. You can also have these visual symptoms without the head pain. This is called a migraine variant.

Who is at risk for migraine?
Migraine headaches affect about 2 out of 10 people. They happen more often to women than men. Migraines can run in families, and can affect both adults and young children. People who have migraines often have a history of motion sickness.

What Symptoms of a Migraine?
Migraines often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraines may progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome, though you may not experience all stages. One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including:

  • Constipation
  • Mood changes, from depression to euphoria
  • Food cravings
  • Neck stiffness
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Frequent yawning

What is Aura?
Aura may occur before or during migraines. Most people experience migraines without aura.

Auras are symptoms of the nervous system. They are usually visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision.

Sometimes auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances. Your muscles may get weak, or you may feel as though someone is touching you.

Each of these symptoms usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes and lasts for 20 to 60 minutes. Examples of migraine aura include:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hearing noises or music
  • Uncontrollable jerking or other movements

Sometimes, a migraine with aura may be associated with limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine).

What is a Migraine Attack?
A migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours if untreated. The frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person. Migraines may be rare, or strike several times a month. During a migraine, you may experience:

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that feels throbbing or pulsing
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

What is Post-drome?
The final phase, known as post-drome, occurs after a migraine attack. You may feel drained and washed out, while some people feel elated. For about 24 hours, you may also experience:

  • Confusion
  • Moodiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

What are the Causes of a Migraine?
Though migraine causes aren't understood, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role. Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway.

Imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved. Researchers are still studying the role of serotonin in migraines.

Serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal nerve to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain's outer covering (meninges). The result is migraine pain. Other neurotransmitters play a role in the pain of migraine, including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).

Many people notice that certain things set off a migraine. Triggers can include:

  • Certain foods, such as red wine, aged cheeses and chocolate
  • Food products and additives, such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), nitrates and nitrites (used in hot dogs and other processed meats) and artificial sweeteners
  • Sleep problems (too much or too little sleep, or irregular sleep patterns)
  • Hormone changes in women, usually due to birth control pills, having your period, being pregnant or being in menopause
  • Stress, anxiety, or other emotional problems. Some people get migraines when stress levels change, as when they start vacation or finish a stressful project at work
  • Environmental factors, such as perfumes, certain lights or temperature changes

Migraine triggers
The best way to prevent migraine is to avoid triggers. If you do not know what triggers your migraine, try keeping a "headache diary." Write down what you did just before a migraine started. Note what you ate, how well you slept, and any other factors that may have triggered your headache. Then avoid these triggers as much as you can.

Mather Neurology Treatments for Migraines
Migraine treatments can help stop symptoms and prevent future attacks. Your treatment strategy depends on the frequency and severity of your headaches, the degree of disability your headaches cause, and your other medical conditions.

  • Self-care: Avoid migraine triggers, Stress management, Improved sleep habits, and Diet modification
  • Medications: Analgesic, Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drug, Stimulant, Nerve pain medication, Triptan, and Neurotoxin
  • Therapies: Progressive muscle relaxation and Acupuncture

Botox for Migraine Headaches
Mather Neurology doctors specializes in chronic headaches and have vast experience in administering Botox treatments. Our skilled physicians will discuss the procedure with you in detail and can help you decide if these injections will fit your needs.

Onabotulinum toxin A, or Botox, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for chronic migraine headaches. It is not a cure. Our patients who receive Botox for headaches usually get the treatment about every three months. For some, that is all they need to keep their headaches under control. For others, additional medication or other headache treatment is necessary.

What is Botox?
Botox is a medication that uses a form of botulinum toxin to paralyze muscle activity temporarily. Best known for its ability to reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles, Botox also has been shown to help prevent chronic migraine headaches with Mather Neurology patients. It's used mainly for those who have headaches more than 15 days a month. The medication typically is injected into muscles of the forehead, scalp, neck and shoulders.

Read More in Our Special Section - Botox for Migraine Headaches

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