Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

June 20, 2023
Miriam Brandon, MD
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June is Migraine and Headache awareness month. It is no wonder that we need a whole month for awareness. It is thought that 12% of adults suffer from migraines. While many with migraines do not have life altering symptoms, there is certainly at best a temporary limitation that comes with even infrequent migraines.

Why do some people have migraines and others do not? There is thought to be a genetic component to migraines. They are 3 times more common in women than men. There are also triggers for many people. Stress and poor sleep can precipitate a migraine. Hormonal changes for many women with cyclic drops in estrogen can cause migraine. Even hunger, strong odors, and physical exertion are culprits at times.

How are migraines different than any other headache? The typical migraine is often on one side of the head and often starts as a dull and steady pain. It can become pulsing or throbbing when more severe. Many people may have nausea or discomfort in bright light. Some people have symptoms before the headache even starts. We call this an aura. An aura can include change in vision or numbness in the fingers and face. The aura typically only lasts a short time and is then followed by headache. A headache with more worrisome symptoms may not just be a migraine. You should seek care if migraine symptoms also include fever, a stiff neck, or weakness on one side of the body.

Fortunately, we have good treatments for migraine. Some people do well with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as Excedrin, Tylenol, or Advil. If these medicines work and you do not need them often, you may not need further treatment. It is important to note that when OTC medicines are used for any headache too often, it can cause a rebound headache. If you need OTC medicines more than once a week, you should speak to your healthcare provider about alternatives. If you do not improve with these OTC medicines, there are many prescription medications available as needed for migraine. For people who have frequent migraines, there are medicines that can be prescribed to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Migraines can definitely affect our quality of life when present. If this is a problem for you, please speak to your provider at your next appointment. There may be good options to help.