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Migraine Headaches

Migraine attacks usually start with blurring of vision, followed by a severe headache that often doesn't go away until a person feels nausea.

The pain of migraine is often so severe that an attack causes you to prefer being alone in a dark room with your eyes closed, with no one touching you and in complete silence. The current theory is that a brain chemical called serotonin causes blood vessels in the brain to change shape, causing nerves to swell and send pain messages to the brain. Triptin drugs bind to receptors in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis nerve and prevent the release of peptides that cause pain.

If you have chronic headaches, your doctor may order an MRI of your brain to rule out a tumor, blood tests and cultures to look for infection, blood tests for nerve damage and a sinus X ray to rule out a sinus infection. Usually these tests will be normal and you will be told that you have migraine headaches. Your doctor should also do a blood test called a sed rate to rule out a serious disease, called temporal arteritis, that also causes severe headaches and is treated with cortisone-type drugs.

Migraine attacks in some people can be prevented by avoiding foods that contain monoamines, such as wine, cheese, chocolate, mushrooms and anchovies. Migraine attacks can also be caused by estrogen-containing pills.

If you get occasional migraine attacks, your doctor will probably prescribe ergotamine or Imitrex pills, or arthritis pain medicines such as ibuprofin. If you suffer frequent migraines, your doctor may prescribe propanolol three or four times a day to prevent headaches. Another group of medication called ACE inhibitors has also been used to help prevent migraines. Severe migraines that occur prior to menstruation may be treated with hormones. If your headaches persist, you should check with a neurologist.

By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., for CBS Radio News
Checked 7/24/17

January 1st, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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