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Migraine Headache

Migraine headache

Definition

Migraine is a type of headache marked by severe head pain lasting several hours or more.

Description

Migraine is an intense and often debilitating type of headache. The term migraine is derived from the Greek word hemikrania, meaning "half the head," because the classic migraine headache affects only one side of the person's head. Migraines affect as many as 24 million people in the United States, and are responsible for billions of dollars in lost work, poor job performance, and direct medical costs. Approximately 18% of women and 6% of men experience at least one migraine attack per year. Currently, one American in 11 now suffers from migraines, more than three times as many are women, with most of them being between the ages of 30 and 49. Migraines often begin in adolescence, and are rare after age 60.

Two types of migraine are recognized. Eighty percent of migraine sufferers experience "migraine without aura" (common migraine). In "migraine with aura," or classic migraine, the pain is preceded or accompanied by visual or other sensory disturbances, including hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness. Symptoms are often most prominent on one side of the head or body, and may begin as early as 72 hours before the onset of pain.

Causes & symptoms

Causes

The physiological basis of migraine has proved difficult to uncover. There are a multitude of potential triggers for a migraine attack, and recognizing one's own set of triggers is the key to prevention.

PHYSIOLOGY. The most widely accepted hypothesis of migraine suggests that a migraine attack is precipitated when pain-sensing nerve cells in the brain (called nociceptors) release chemicals called neuropeptides. At least one of the neurotransmitters, substance P, increases the pain sensitivity of nearby nociceptors. This process is called sensitization.

Other neuropeptides act on the smooth muscle surrounding cranial blood vessels. This smooth muscle regulates blood flow in the brain by relaxing or contracting, thus dilating (enlarging) or constricting the enclosed blood vessels. At the onset of a migraine headache, neuropeptides are thought to cause muscle relaxation , allowing vessel dilation and increased blood flow. Other neuropeptides increase the leakiness of cranial vessels, allowing fluid leak, and promote inflammation and tissue swelling. The pain of migraine is thought to result from this combination of increased pain sensitivity, tissue and vessel swelling, and inflammation. The aura seen during a migraine may be related to constriction in the blood vessels that dilate in the headache phase.

GENETICS. Susceptibility to some types of migraine is inherited. A child of a migraine sufferer has as much as a 50% chance of developing migraines. If both parents are affected, the chance rises to 70%. In 2002, a team of Australian researchers identified a region on human chromosome 1 that influences susceptibility to migraine. It is likely that more than one gene is involved in the inherited forms of the disorder. Many cases of migraine, however, have no obvious familial basis. It is likely that the genes that are involved set the stage for migraine, and that full development requires environmental influences, as well.

Two groups of Italian researchers have recently identified two loci on human chromosomes 1 and 14 respectively that are linked to migraine headaches. The locus on chromosome 1q23 has been linked to familial hemiplegic migraine type 2, while the locus on chromosome 14q21 is associated with migraine without aura.

TRIGGERS. A wide variety of foods, drugs, environmental cues, and personal events are known to trigger migraines. It is not known how most triggers set off the events of migraine, nor why individual migraine sufferers are affected by particular triggers but not others.

Common food triggers include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine products, as well as caffeine withdrawal
  • chocolate
  • foods with an extremely high sugar content
  • dairy products
  • fermented or pickled foods
  • citrus fruits
  • nuts
  • processed foods, especially those containing nitrites, sulfites, or monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Environmental and event-related triggers include:

  • stress or time pressure
  • menstrual periods, menopause
  • sleep changes or disturbances, including oversleeping
  • prolonged overexertion or uncomfortable posture
  • hunger or fasting
  • odors, smoke, or perfume
  • strong glare or flashing lights

Drugs that may trigger migraine include:

  • oral contraceptives
  • estrogen replacement therapy
  • Theophylline
  • Reserpine
  • Nifedipine
  • Indomethicin
  • Cimetidine
  • oversuse of decongestants
  • analgesic overuse
  • benzodiazepine withdrawal

Symptoms

Migraine without aura may be preceded by elevations in mood or energy level for up to 24 hours before the attack. Other pre-migraine symptoms may include fatigue, depression , and excessive yawning.

Aura most often begins with shimmering, jagged arcs of white or colored light progressing over the visual field in the course of 1020 minutes. This may be preceded or replaced by dark areas or other visual disturbances. Numbness and tingling are common, especially of the face and hands. These sensations may spread, and may be accompanied by a sensation of weakness or heaviness in the affected limb.

Migraine pain is often present only on one side of the head, although it may involve both, or switch sides during attacks. The pain is usually throbbing, and may range from mild to incapacitating. It is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting , painful sensitivity to light and sound, and intolerance of food or odors. Blurred vision is also common.

The pain tends to intensify over the first 30 minutes to several hours, and may last from several hours to a day, or longer. Afterward, the affected person is usually weary, and sensitive to sudden head movements.

Diagnosis

Ideally, migraine is diagnosed by a careful medical history. Unfortunately, migraine is underdiagnosed because many doctors tend to minimize its symptoms as "just a headache." According to a 2003 study, 64% of migraine patients in the United Kingdom and 77% of those in the United States never receive a correct medical diagnosis for their headaches.

So far, laboratory tests and such imaging studies as computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have not been useful for identifying migraine. However, these tests may be necessary to rule out a brain tumor or other structural causes of migraine headache in some patients.

Treatment

At the onset of symptoms, the migraine sufferer should seek out a quiet, dark room and attempt to sleep. Placing a cold, damp cloth or a cold pack on the fore-head may help. Additionally, tying a headband tightly around the head can relieve migraines.

Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances. Identification and elimination of the offending food or foods can decrease the frequency of migraines and/or alleviate these headaches altogether.

Alternative treatments for migraine include:

  • Acupressure. Pressing on the Gates of Consciousness (GB 20) points can relieve migraine.
  • Acupuncture . A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded that acupuncture may be a useful treatment for headache.
  • Aromatherapy. The essential oil rosemary eases migraine pain.
  • Autogenic training. Autogenic training is a form of self-hypnosis developed in Germany in the 1930s that has been shown in several studies to relieve the pain of migraine.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy.
  • Herbals. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis ), passion-flower (Passiflora incarnata ), feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium ), ginger , ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba ), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ), hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha ), linden, wood betony (Stachys officinalis ), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora ), or cramp bark (Viburnum opulus ) may relieve migraines.
  • Hydrotherapy. Contrast showers, in which a short hot shower is followed by a longer cold shower, may halt an oncoming migraine. A hot enema can temporarily relieve migraine pain.
  • Naturopathy. Migraine headaches are one of the most common reasons for consulting naturopathic practitioners. Naturopaths typically treat migraine with a combination of nutritional therapy and mind/body techniques.
  • Relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga , hypnosis, visualization, breathing exercises, or progressive muscular relaxation may halt the progression of a migraine.
  • Supplements. Clinical studies have shown that vitamin B2 (riboflavin ), magnesium, 5-HTP , or melatonin can reduce the severity of migraines.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Allopathic treatments

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are helpful for early and mild headache. Excedrin Migraine is a combination product that is indicated for migraine headache.

More severe or unresponsive attacks may be treated with ergotamine (botulinum toxin), dihydroergotamine, sumatriptan (Imitrex), beta-blockers and calcium channel-blockers, antiseizure drugs, antidepressants (SSRIs), meperidine, or metoclopramide. Some of these drugs are also available as nasal sprays, intramuscular injections, or rectal suppositories when vomiting prevents taking the drug by mouth.

Sumatriptan and other triptan drugs (zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, naratriptan, almotriptan, and frovatriptan) should not be taken by people with any kind of vascular disease because they cause coronary artery narrowing. Otherwise these drugs have been shown to be very safe.

Continued use of some antimigraine drugs can lead to "rebound headache," marked by frequent or chronic headaches, especially in the early morning hours. Rebound headache can be avoided by using antimigraine drugs under a doctor's supervision, with the minimum dose necessary to treat symptoms. Tizanidine (Zanaflex) has been reported to be effective in treating rebound headaches when taken together with an NSAID.

Expected results

Most people can control migraines through recognizing and avoiding triggers, and by using effective treatments. Some people with severe migraines do not respond to preventive or drug therapy. Migraines usually wane in intensity by age 60 and beyond.

Prevention

The frequency of migraine headaches may be lessened by avoiding triggers. It is useful to track these triggers by keeping a headache journal.

One substance that is being studied as a possible migraine preventive is coenzyme Q10 , a compound used by cells to produce energy needed for cell growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 has been studied as a possible complementary treatment for cancer . Its use in preventing migraines is encouraging and merits further study.

A study published in early 2003 reported that three drugs currently used to treat disorders of muscle tone are being explored as possible preventive treatments for migraine. They are botulinum toxin type A (Botox), baclofen (Lioresal), and tizanidine (Zanaflex). Early results of open trials of these medications are positive.

Anti-epileptic drugs, which are also known as anti-convulsants, are also being studied as possible migraine preventives. As of 2003, sodium valproate (Epilim) is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for prevention of migraine. Such newer anticonvulsants as gabapentin (Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax) are presently being evaluated as migraine preventives.

A natural preparation made from butterbur root (Petasites hybridus ) has been sold in Germany since the 1970s as a migraine preventive under the trade name Petadolex. Petadolex has been available in the United States since December 1998 and has passed several clinical safety and postmarketing surveillance trials.

Other possible preventive measures include: eating at regular times, not skipping meals, reducing the use of caffeine and pain-relievers, restricting physical exertion (especially on hot days), and keeping regular sleep hours, but not oversleeping. Other measures include:

  • Aerobic exercise , which can reduce the frequency of migraines.
  • Biofeedback thermal control was found to be as effective as medications in preventing migraines.
  • Celery juice consumed twice daily may help to prevent migraines.
  • Feverfew was shown to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. This herb should not, however, be used during pregnancy or by people taking blood-thinning medications.
  • Ginger may help prevent migraines.
  • Pulsing electromagnetic fields. A preliminary study found that pulsing electromagnetic fields reduced the frequency of migraines.
  • Relaxation techniques can reduce migraine frequency.
  • Supplementation with magnesium and riboflavin was shown to prevent migraines.

Resources

BOOKS

American Council on Headache Education. Migraine: The Complete Guide. New York: Dell, 1994.

"Migraine. " Section 14, Chapter 168 in The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, edited by Mark H. Beers, MD, and Robert Berkow, MD. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1999.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part II, "CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions: Headaches." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Bendtsen, L. "Sensitization: Its Role in Primary Headache." Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 3 (March 2002): 449453.

Corbo, J. "The Role of Anticonvulsants in Preventive Migraine Therapy." Current Pain and Headache Reports 7 (February 2003): 6366.

Danesch, U., and R. Rittinghausen. "Safety of a Patented Special Butterbur Root Extract for Migraine Prevention." Headache 43 (January 2003): 7678.

Diamond, S., and R. Wenzel. "Practical Approaches to Migraine Management." CNS Drugs 16 (2002): 385403.

Freitag, F. G. "Preventative Treatment for Migraine and Tension-Type headaches : Do Drugs Having Effects on Muscle Spasm and Tone Have a Role?" CNS Drugs 17 (2003): 373381.

Lea, R. A., A. G. Shepherd, R. P. Curtain, et al. "A Typical Migraine Susceptibility Region Localizes to Chromosome 1q31." Neurogenetics 4 (March 2002): 1722.

Lipton, R. B., A. I. Scher, T. J. Steiner, et al. "Patterns of Health Care Utilization for Migraine in England and in the United States." Neurology 60 (February 11, 2003): 441448.

Marconi, R., M. De Fusco, P. Aridon, et al. "Familial Hemiplegic Migraine Type 2 is Linked to 0.9Mb Region on Chromosome 1q23" Annals of Neurology 53 (March 2003): 376381.

PrysePhillips, William E.M., et al. "Guidelines for the Nonpharmacologic Management of Migraine in Clinical Practice." Canadian Medical Association Journal 159 (July 14, 1998): 4754.

Rozen, T. D., M. L. Oshinsky, C. A. Gebeline, et al. "Open Label Trial of Coenzyme Q10 as a Migraine Preventive." Cephalalgia 22 (March 2002): 137141.

Sheftell, F. D., and S. J. Tepper. "New Paradigms in the Recognition and Acute Treatment of Migraine." Headache 42 (January 2002): 5869.

Sinclair, Steven. "Migraine Headaches: Nutritional, Botanical and Other Alternative Approaches." Alternative Medicine Review 4 (1999): 8695.

Soragna, D., A. Vettori, G. Carraro, et al. "A Locus for Migraine Without Aura Maps on Chromosome 14q21.2-q22.3." American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (January 2003): 161167.

Stetter, F., and S. Kupper. "Autogenic Training: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Outcome Studies." Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback 27 (March 2002): 4598.

Tepper, S. J., and D. Millson. "Safety Profile of the Triptans." Expert Opinion on Drug Safety 2 (March 2003): 123132.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Council for Headache Education. 19 Mantua Road, Mt. Royal, NJ 08061. (609) 423-0043 or (800) 255-2243. <http://www.achenet.org>.

National Headache Foundation. 428 West St. James Place, Chicago, IL 60614. (773) 388-6399 or (800) 843-2256. <http://www.headaches.org>.

U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857. (888) 463-6332. <http://www.fda.gov>.

OTHER

"Migraine." American Medical Association. (cited December 2002). <http://www.ama-assn.org/special/migraine>.

Belinda Rowland

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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Migraine Headache

Migraine Headache

Definition

Migraine is a type of headache marked by severe head pain lasting several hours or more.

Description

Migraine is an intense and often debilitating type of headache. Migraines affect as many as 24 million people in the United States, and are responsible for billions of dollars in lost work, poor job performance, and direct medical costs. Approximately 18% of women and 6% of men experience at least one migraine attack per year. More than three million women and one million men have one or more severe headaches every month. Migraines often begin in adolescence, and are rare after age 60.

Two types of migraine are recognized. Eighty percent of migraine sufferers experience "migraine without aura" (common migraine). In "migraine with aura," or classic migraine, the pain is preceded or accompanied by visual or other sensory disturbances, including hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness. Symptoms are often most prominent on one side of the head or body, and may begin as early as 72 hours before the onset of pain.

Causes and symptoms

Causes

The physiological basis of migraine has proved difficult to uncover. Genetics appear to play a part for many, but not all, people with migraine. There are a multitude of potential triggers for a migraine attack, and recognizing one's own set of triggers is the key to prevention.

PHYSIOLOGY. The most widely accepted hypothesis of migraine suggests that a migraine attack is precipitated when pain-sensing nerve cells in the brain (called nociceptors) release chemicals called neuropeptides. At least one of the neurotransmitters, substance P, increases the pain sensitivity of other nearby nociceptors.

Other neuropeptides act on the smooth muscle surrounding cranial blood vessels. This smooth muscle regulates blood flow in the brain by relaxing or contracting, thus constricting the enclosed blood vessels and stimulating adjacent pain receptors. At the onset of a migraine headache, neuropeptides are thought to cause muscle relaxation, allowing vessel dilation and increased blood flow. Other neuropeptides increase the leakiness of cranial vessels, allowing fluid leak, and promote inflammation and tissue swelling. The pain of migraine is though to result from this combination of increased pain sensitivity, tissue and vessel swelling, and inflammation. The aura seen during a migraine may be related to constriction in the blood vessels that dilate in the headache phase.

GENETICS. Susceptibility to some types of migraine is inherited. A child of a migraine sufferer has as much as a 50% chance of developing migraines. If both parents are affected, the chance rises to 70%. In 2002, a team of Australian researchers identified a region on human chromosome 1 that influences susceptibility to migraine. It is likely that more than one gene is involved in the inherited forms of the disorder. Many cases of migraine, however, have no obvious familial basis. It is likely that the genes that are involved set the stage for migraine, and that full development requires environmental influences, as well.

Two groups of Italian researchers have recently identified two loci on human chromosomes 1 and 14 respectively that are linked to migraine headaches. The locus on chromosome 1q23 has been linked to familial hemiplegic migraine type 2, while the locus on chromosome 14q21 is associated with migraine without aura.

TRIGGERS. A wide variety of foods, drugs, environmental cues, and personal events are known to trigger migraines. It is not known how most triggers set off the events of migraine, nor why individual migraine sufferers are affected by particular triggers but not others.

Common food triggers include:

  • cheese
  • alcohol
  • caffeine products, and caffeine withdrawal
  • chocolate
  • intensely sweet foods
  • dairy products
  • fermented or pickled foods
  • citrus fruits
  • nuts
  • processed foods, especially those containing nitrites, sulfites, or monosodium glutamate (msg)

Environmental and event-related triggers include:

  • stress or time pressure
  • menstrual periods, menopause
  • sleep changes or disturbances, oversleeping
  • prolonged overexertion or uncomfortable posture
  • hunger or fasting
  • odors, smoke, or perfume
  • strong glare or flashing lights

Drugs which may trigger migraine include:

  • oral contraceptives
  • estrogen replacement therapy
  • nitrates
  • theophylline
  • reserpine
  • nifedipine
  • indomethicin
  • cimetidine
  • decongestant overuse
  • analgesic overuse
  • benzodiazepine withdrawal

Symptoms

Migraine without aura may be preceded by elevations in mood or energy level for up to 24 hours before the attack. Other pre-migraine symptoms may include fatigue, depression, and excessive yawning.

Aura most often begins with shimmering, jagged arcs of white or colored light progressing over the visual field in the course of 10-20 minutes. This may be preceded or replaced by dark areas or other visual disturbances. Numbness and tingling is common, especially of the face and hands. These sensations may spread, and may be accompanied by a sensation of weakness or heaviness in the affected limb.

The pain of migraine is often present only on one side of the head, although it may involve both, or switch sides during attacks. The pain is usually throbbing, and may range from mild to incapacitating. It is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting, painful sensitivity to light and sound, and intolerance of food or odors. Blurred vision is common.

Migraine pain tends to intensify over the first 30 minutes to several hours, and may last from several hours to a day or longer. Afterward, the affected person is usually weary, and sensitive to sudden head movements.

Diagnosis

Ideally, migraine is diagnosed by a careful medical history. Unfortunately, migraine is underdiagnosed because many doctors tend to minimize its symptoms as "just a headache." According to a 2003 study, 64% of migraine patients in the United Kingdom and 77% of those in the United States never receive a correct medical diagnosis for their headaches.

So far, laboratory tests and such imaging studies as computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have not been useful for identifying migraine. However, these tests may be necessary to rule out a brain tumor or other structural causes of migraine headache in some patients.

Treatment

Once a migraine begins, the person will usually seek out a dark, quiet room to lessen painful stimuli. Several drugs may be used to reduce the pain and severity of the attack.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful for early and mild headache. NSAIDs include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others. A recent study concluded that a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine could effectively relieve symptoms for many migraine patients. One such over-the-counter preparation is available as Exedrin Migraine.

More severe or unresponsive attacks may be treated with drugs that act on serotonin receptors in the smooth muscle surrounding cranial blood vessels. Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, constricts these vessels, relieving migraine pain. Drugs that mimic serotonin and bind to these receptors have the same effect. The oldest of them is ergotamine, a derivative of a common grain fungus. Ergotamine and dihydroergotamine are used for both acute and preventive treatment. Derivatives with fewer side effects have come onto the market in the past decade, including sumatriptan (Imitrex). Some of these drugs are available as nasal sprays, intramuscular injections, or rectal suppositories for patients in whom vomiting precludes oral administration. Other drugs used for acute attacks include meperidine and metoclopramide.

Studies are showing that rizatriptan is a promising drug for the treatment of migraines. One study showed that 10mg of rizatriptan provided relief to 90% of the patients in the study group and kept 50% of them pain-free 2 hours after taking the medication. Sumatriptan has been on the market since 1993, while rizatriptan became available in 1998.

Sumatriptan and other triptan drugs (zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, naratriptan, almotriptan, and frovatriptan) should not be taken by people with any kind of vascular disease because they cause coronary artery narrowing. Otherwise these drugs have been shown to be very safe.

Continued use of some antimigraine drugs can lead to "rebound headache," marked by frequent or chronic headaches, especially in the early morning hours. Rebound headache can be avoided by using antimigraine drugs under a doctor's supervision, with the minimum dose necessary to treat symptoms. Tizanidine (Zanaflex) has been reported to be effective in treating rebound headaches when taken together with an NSAID.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments are aimed at prevention of migraine. Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances. Identification and elimination of the offending food or foods can decrease the frequency of migraines and/or alleviate these headaches altogether. Herbal therapy with feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium ) may lessen the frequency of attacks. Learning to increase the flow of blood to the extremities through biofeedback training may allow a patient to prevent some of the vascular changes once a migraine begins. During a migraine, keep the lights low; put the feet in a tub of hot water and place a cold cloth on the occipital region (the back of the head). This treatment draws the blood to the feet and decreases the pressure in the head.

Prognosis

Most people with migraines can bring their attacks under control through recognizing and avoiding triggers, and by use of appropriate drugs when migraine occurs. Some people with severe migraines do not respond to preventive or drug therapy. Migraines usually wane in intensity by age 60 and beyond.

Prevention

The frequency of migraine may be lessened by avoiding triggers. It is useful to keep a headache journal, recording the particulars and noting possible triggers for each attack. Specific measures which may help include:

  • Eating at regular times, and not skipping meals.
  • Reducing the use of caffeine and pain-relievers.
  • Restricting physical exertion, especially on hot days.
  • Keeping regular sleep hours, but not oversleeping.
  • Managing one's time efficiently in order to avoid stress at work and home.

Some drugs can be used for migraine prevention, including specific members of these drug classes:

  • beta blockers
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • calcium channel blockers
  • selective serotinin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • serotonin antagonists

One substance that is being studied as a possible migraine preventive is coenzyme Q10, a compound used by cells to produce energy needed for cell growth and maintenance. Coenzyme Q10 has been studied as a possible complementary treatment for cancer. Its use in preventing migraines is encouraging and merits further study.

KEY TERMS

Aura A group of visual or other sensations that precedes the onset of a migraine attack.

Coenzyme Q10 A substance used by cells in the human body to produce energy for cell maintenance and growth. It is being studied as a possible preventive for migraine headaches.

Nociceptor A specialized type of nerve cell that senses pain.

A study published in early 2003 reported that three drugs currently used to treat disorders of muscle tone are being explored as possible preventive treatments for migraine. They are botulinum toxin type A (Botox), baclofen (Lioresal), and tizanidine (Zanaflex). Early results of open trials of these medications are positive.

Anti-epileptic drugs, which are also known as anticonvulsants, are also being studied as possible migraine preventives. As of 2003, sodium valproate (Epilim) is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for prevention of migraine. Such newer anticonvulsants as gabapentin (Neurontin) and topiramate (Topamax) are presently being evaluated as migraine preventives.

A natural preparation made from butterbur root (Petasites hybridus ) has been sold in Germany since the 1970s as a migraine preventive under the trade name Petadolex. Petadolex has been available in the United States since December 1998 and has passed several clinical safety and postmarketing surveillance trials.

Resources

BOOKS

Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD, editors. "Migraine." Section 14, Chapter 168. In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part II, "CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions: Headaches." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Rakel, Robert. Conn's Current Therapy: Latest Approved Methods of Treatment for the Practicing Physician. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 2001.

Tierney, Lawrence, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment. Los Altos, CA: Lange Medical Publications, 2001.

PERIODICALS

Bendtsen, L. "Sensitization: Its Role in Primary Headache." Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 3 (March 2002): 449-453.

Corbo, J. "The Role of Anticonvulsants in Preventive Migraine Therapy." Current Pain and Headache Reports 7 (February 2003): 63-66.

Danesch, U., and R. Rittinghausen. "Safety of a Patented Special Butterbur Root Extract for Migraine Prevention." Headache 43 (January 2003): 76-78.

Diamond, S., and R. Wenzel. "Practical Approaches to Migraine Management." CNS Drugs 16 (2002): 385-403.

Freitag, F. G. "Preventative Treatment for Migraine and Tension-Type Headaches: Do Drugs Having Effects on Muscle Spasm and Tone Have a Role?" CNS Drugs 17 (2003): 373-381.

Lea, R. A., A. G. Shepherd, R. P. Curtain, et al. "A Typical Migraine Susceptibility Region Localizes to Chromosome 1q31." Neurogenetics 4 (March 2002): 17-22.

Lipton, R. B., A. I. Scher, T. J. Steiner, et al. "Patterns of Health Care Utilization for Migraine in England and in the United States." Neurology 60 (February 11, 2003): 441-448.

Marconi, R., M. De Fusco, P. Aridon, et al. "Familial Hemiplegic Migraine Type 2 is Linked to 0.9Mb Region on Chromosome 1q23." Annals of Neurology 53 (March 2003): 376-381.

Rozen, T. D., M. L. Oshinsky, C. A. Gebeline, et al. "Open Label Trial of Coenzyme Q10 as a Migraine Preventive." Cephalalgia 22 (March 2002): 137-141.

Sheftell, F. D., and S. J. Tepper. "New Paradigms in the Recognition and Acute Treatment of Migraine." Headache 42 (January 2002): 58-69.

Sinclair, Steven. "Migraine Headaches: Nutritional, Botanical and Other Alternative Approaches." Alternative Medicine Review 4 (1999): 86-95.

Soragna, D., A. Vettori, G. Carraro, et al. "A Locus for Migraine Without Aura Maps on Chromosome 14q21.2-q22.3." American Journal of Human Genetics 72 (January 2003): 161-167.

Tepper, S. J., and D. Millson. "Safety Profile of the Triptans." Expert Opinion on Drug Safety 2 (March 2003): 123-132.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Council for Headache Education. 19 Mantua Road, Mt. Royal, NJ 08061. (609) 423-0043 or (800) 255-2243. http://www.achenet.org.

National Headache Foundation. 428 West St. James Place, Chicago, IL 60614. (773) 388-6399 or (800) 843-2256. http://www.headaches.org.

U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857. (888) 463-6332. http://www.fda.gov.

OTHER

American Medical Association. "Migraine." http://www.ama-assn.org/special/migraine/.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
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"Migraine Headache." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Migraine Headache." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/migraine-headache-0

"Migraine Headache." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/migraine-headache-0

migraine

migraine Migraine comes from the Greek ‘hemicrania’, or half-sided headache, and is in essence a form of ‘primary headache’, which is to say that the headache is itself the disorder and is not secondary to some other process, such as infection or injury. Migraine has been recognized throughout recorded history and there are reasonably clear descriptions that date back to Sumarian times. Migraine is as real as high blood pressure or a broken bone. It is an important, biologically-based disorder that should never be thought of as psychosomatic. Migraine is characterized by episodes of often severe, usually one-sided, frequently throbbing or pounding pain, associated with other features, such as nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to body movement, sensitivity to light (photophobia), or sensitivity to sound (phonophobia).

Migraine is probably best viewed as an inherited tendency to have headache, or perhaps headacheyness, rather than just the limited view of episodes of severe headache. Certainly many migraine patients suffer very severe, disabling headache that does not shorten life but can make it virtually a living hell. However, a broader view is necessary to explain everything that the physician encounters, and other aspects of the problem may dominate in the individual.

The frequency of migraine varies greatly between individuals — occurring almost every day, once or twice a year over many years, or just a few times in a whole lifetime. The biology of migraine does not always obey the rather strict rules that have been evolved to describe it: although these are very useful for research, one should not be a slave to rules for a problem with such a complex biology.

The cause and incidence of migraine

Migraine is probably for the most part inherited. It is thought to be autosomal dominant (see genetics, human), which means that about half the children of an affected parent will carry the genes irrespective of sex. Its expression in any one patient varies and so while most migraine sufferers will have an affected relative this is not always the case. Migraine can start at almost any time in life but the peak incidence is in the 20s and 30s. About 4–6% of children are affected, slightly more boys than girls, and about 10% of most adult Caucasian populations that have been studied. Probably fewer people are affected in African populations, and fewer still in oriental Asian populations. At puberty, with the onset of menstrual periods, the prevalence (number of people with the problem) of migraine increases in females and remains greater than in males right up to the 80s. The peak prevalence is about the age of 40; in this age-group about 1 in 5, or 20%, of adult Caucasian women have migraine. This is an enormous public health issue that has barely been addressed, yet has been with humans for several millennia.

Migraine aura — the flashing lights and zigzags

Migraine aura is a very special part of the problem that affects only about 20% of sufferers. It consists of zigzag flashing lights, loss of vision, bright sparkles, pins and needles over the face or arms, or even weakness, speech problems, or balance problems. Aura usually comes at the beginning of an attack and lasts about 30 min; less commonly it can occur during or even after the headache; it very rarely lasts more than an hour. It has two very important features: firstly, it moves slowly across the field of vision, or up or down the limb, almost never moving suddenly; and secondly, it is completely reversible — it always gets better. Changes to such symptoms should result in prompt medical review. Recently, the nature of a very special, rare form of aura, called hemiplegic aura, involving complete loss of use of the limbs on one side, has been elucidated. It is often due to a mutation, a change in the gene for a particular protein that allows electrically charged chemicals into body cells and controls the release of messenger molecules in the brain. These mutations on chromosomes 1 and 19 are pointing to ways in which we might understand how ordinary migraine starts: this is an active area of research.

The pain of migraine

This does not have a single explanation, which is perhaps why it has been difficult to characterize precisely. The pain in migraine involves abnormal signals in nerve fibres from the large blood vessels in the head — both from those within the skull (brain blood vessels) and also some from outside the skull, as well as from the protective covering of the brain, the meninges, particularly the tough fibrous part, the dura mater. The brain does not feel pain itself but because of an episodic defect in the nerve systems that control pain and other signals coming into the brain, normal or somewhat abnormal signals are amplified. So a normal or slightly dilated blood vessel gives a pounding or throbbing pain, often in time with the pulse. The pain is felt on the forehead, behind the eyes, over the top, around the sides, or over the back of the head, because the nerves that take pain signals from all over the inside of the skull go to the same place in the brain stem, to the trigeminal nucleus. Just as it can be impossible to locate the source of pain arising from organs in the body cavities — the abdomen or the chest — so migraine pain can be all over the head, or just on one side, or just in one place, wherever the source of the signals. Pain location in migraine, particularly over the back of the head, does not therefore necessarily implicate that area as diseased. This applies, for example, to the neck, which is often blamed for migraine but is seldom the true cause. The poor location of pain from within body cavities, referencing it elsewhere, is called referral of pain, and is a well-established, important concept that also applies to migraine. Referral of pain takes place because pain fibres from a deep structure, (such as, in this case, a brain blood vessel), and a superficial structure (such as the skin), both project to the same nerve cell in the trigeminal nucleus. The body cannot thus distinguish where the signal comes from, and wrongly attributes, or ‘refers’, the pain to the skin or other superficial structure.

The other symptoms of migraine can be thought of broadly as sensitivities to various things: movement, noise, light, smells, even something in the stomach to cause nausea (although we currently think that nausea has an important component from connections of the pain nerves with nausea cells in the brain). The areas in the human brain that have been shown to be active in migraine have two very interesting roles in normal physiology. One area in the brain stem controls, ‘gates’, or modulates incoming sensory information. It allows us to concentrate on something and to ignore irrelevant noise or even tactile (feeling) information. It is likely that this area, called the nucleus locus coeruleus, dysfunctions in migraine so that normal light or sound are perceived by the brain as too bright or loud, or normal smells as unpleasant. Many migraine sufferers report that their brain seems clouded, they cannot concentrate, and their thought processes are just not right. It seems likely that it is abnormalities in the locus coeruleus and associated areas that form the basis of the biology of these very real symptoms. One of the areas shown by imaging techniques to be active in migraine is also active during sleep induction, so it is no surprise that migraine sufferers for thousands of years have appreciated the benefit of sleep.

Much has changed in our understanding of migraine in the last decade, such that sufferers can now be given a reasonable explanation of most of their symptoms and thus be optimistic that soon their disease will be even better understood.

Meanwhile, the main thing that sufferers can do is to understand their limits. Many triggers for migraine can be identified, such as stress. (However, stress can trigger just about any type of headache, and there can therefore be no distinct thing called stress headache.) Environmental situations, some chemicals and foods, and a host of other situations are patient-specific triggers. These triggers have one general theme. The migraine sufferer is less tolerant of altering circumstances — such as skipping meals or eating late (and this is particularly true of children). They may not tolerate stress but, in an apparent paradox, may also get headache when they relax, or when they over-sleep or under-sleep, or when they exercise too much or not enough. In short, the migraine sufferer must be a little more careful with their life and think out what situations they can avoid; this may apply particularly to women during the menstrual cycle.

The remedy then is to exercise, eat, and sleep regularly and perhaps, oddly enough, always have a little stress! If one has headaches on Saturday mornings, is it just because of ‘sleeping in’, or because of the sudden relaxation at the end of a hard week, or even a change in caffeine consumption? Often a simple solution is to get up at a similar time to the weekdays and organize something to do. A trap for people to watch out for if they suffer headache regularly — and perhaps particularly migraine — is that of analgesic over-use. Over time, many patients increase their use of over-the-counter or even prescribed medications to a point where they get a ‘rebound headache’: as the dose of the headache medication wears off the headache comes back and more medication is taken. A vicious cycle commences that may require medical intervention.

A doctor who is consulted about migraine will want to take a medical history to be sure of the diagnosis, compared with other forms of headache, and to make a full clinical examination. The approximate rule for headache action is that new or changing headache, especially of sudden onset, requires urgent attention, while persistent long-standing headache requires time, patience, and thought when planning management. Among the many other questions that might be asked, one of the most important pieces of information can be what medication has been used in the past, in what amounts, and for how long.

With detailed information from the patient about the nature and pattern of the pain, and with knowledge gleaned from experimental work from the last ten to fifteen years, migraine is now relatively well understood and can be better managed than at any time in the last 4000 years. Treatments include preventative medicines and those for use in acute attacks. The preventative medicines are drawn from a number of other areas of medical practice; migraine is not caused by high blood pressure, depression, or epilepsy, but the drugs used in treating these conditions work also in migraine and should be viewed as anti-migraine drugs. (Thus they include b blockers, serotonin blockers, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants.) For acute attacks, there are the common pain-killers such as aspirin or paracetamol, together with an anti-sickness tablet, such as domperidone, or so-called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), again with an anti-sickness medicine. There are also drugs specific for migraine, and for a rare form of headache called cluster headache, but not generally useful for other headaches, there are the ergot derivatives, and the family of triptans. The triptans were developed specifically for migraine and are certainly the most effective and best studied medicines for the condition.

There is currently considerable research into the condition. It is better understood than it has ever been, and this level of knowledge deepens with time. As understanding improves so does treatment.

Peter J. Goadsby

Bibliography

The Migraine Trust and Migraine Action Association (UK) and The American Council for Headache Education (USA) publish various information for sufferers and doctors.
Goadsby, P. J. and Silberstein, S. D. (ed.) (1997). Headache. Butterworth-Heinemann, New York.
Lance, J. W. and and Goadsby, P. J. (1998). Mechanism and management of headache, (6th edn). Butterworth-Heinemann, London.


See also headache.

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"migraine." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"migraine." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/migraine

"migraine." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/migraine

migraine

migraine (mī´grān), headache characterized by recurrent attacks of severe pain, usually on one side of the head. It may be preceded by flashes or spots before the eyes or a ringing in the ears, and accompanied by double vision, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. The attacks vary in frequency from daily occurrences to one every few years.

Migraine affects women three times as often as men and is frequently inherited. Many disturbances, such as allergy, temporary swelling of the brain, and endocrine disturbances, have been suspected of causing some varieties of the disorder. Although the exact cause is unknown, evidence suggests a genetically transmitted functional disturbance of cranial circulation. The pain is believed to be associated with constriction followed by dilation of blood vessels leading to and within the brain.

Untreated attacks may last for many hours. Mild attacks are often relieved by common sedatives such as aspirin or codeine. Severe attacks may be treated with any of a variety of drugs, including a group called triptans, by injection or in the form of pills or nasal sprays. Certain beta-blockers, antiepileptic drugs, or tricyclic antidepressants may reduce the recurrence of migraines in some patients. Biofeedback is used in training people to recognize the warning symptoms and to practice control over the vascular dilation that initiates attacks.

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"migraine." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"migraine." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/migraine

migraine

migraine Recurrent attacks of throbbing headache, mostly on one side only, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances. It results from changes in diameter of the arteries serving the brain. More common in women, it is seen usually in young adults and often runs in families. Attacks, which may last anything from two to 72 hours, are often associated with trigger factors, such as certain foods (especially chocolate), missed meals, consumption of alcohol, fatigue, exposure to glare or use of the contraceptive pill. It can be treated, or in some cases prevented, with various drugs.

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migraine

migraine (mee-grayn) n. a neurovascular disorder in a genetically predisposed individual in which an instability in the brainstem is triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g. foods, light, stress). This results in a recurrent throbbing headache that characteristically affects one side of the head. The headache is often accompanied by prostration, nausea and vomiting, and photophobia. The patient sometimes has forewarning of an attack (see aura).
migrainous adj.

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migraine

mi·graine / ˈmīˌgrān/ (also migraine headache) • n. a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision. DERIVATIVES: mi·grain·ous / -ˌgrānəs/ adj. ORIGIN: late Middle English: from French, via late Latin from Greek hēmikrania, from hēmi- ‘half’ + kranion ‘skull.’

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migraine

migraine XVIII. — F. (see MEGRIM).

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migraine

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