Millions of Americans suffer from chronic migraines and nearly two-thirds are not properly diagnosed.
Hartford HealthCare’s Jocelyn Maminta recently spoke with neurologist and headache specialist Valeriya Klats, MD, with the Ayer Neuroscience Institute Headache Center about the latest treatment options for the debilitating condition.
“A headache is a symptom patients describe as discomfort in the head,” Dr. Klats said regarding the difference between a headache and a migraine. “A headache is a feeling and doesn’t describe what is causing it. While a migraine is a neurologic condition that so many Americans and people worldwide suffer from, that is more than just pain.”
Common symptoms of migraines include:
– Sensitivity to light and sound.
– Neurologic symptoms such as feeling as if the room is spinning and tingling in the face or hands.
Migraines can often be treated with over-the-counter pain medication, but Dr. Klats warns that if you are using these frequently, it may be time to talk to your doctor about chronic migraines. Migraines are considered chronic when they happen for the majority of a month for many months in a row.
“If you’re finding yourself using rescue medications more than three times a week regularly, it’s probably a red flag that maybe there are other options to consider,” she said.
One option for chronic migraines is BOTOX, which is an injectable medication used to prevent headaches. It is given once every 12 weeks.
“For patients who use BOTOX treatment, they typically have tried other treatments in the past and it did not work for them,” she explained. “It’s a minimally invasive procedure with few side effects.”
While BOTOX is a long-term treatment, a nerve block is another option, which is a short-term analgesic treatment.
“Nerve blocks can be used to reduce morbidity and disability associated with headaches in the short term,” Dr. Klats said. “It can help to keep patients out of the emergency room and give time for other treatments to work.”
Dr. Klats says that not every treatment will work for everyone and that it is important to see your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for migraines.
“There are so many treatments today which is very exciting for patients who have had migraines for decades,” she said. “In the past few years, there’s been an emergence of new options for patients that come in tablet form, but also injectable and intravenous. It depends on the patient’s preference, what they have tried before, their other medical conditions and what they can fit into their schedule.”