Migraines: Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment, and Support

As Migraine Awareness Month approaches, it offers a time for reflection, education, and compassion about the neurological condition of migraines, which affects countless individuals worldwide and deserves our attention and understanding. In this special blog post, we commemorate Migraine Awareness Month by shedding light on this often-misunderstood condition. We had the privilege of interviewing Steward Medical Group Neurologist Dr. Daniel Lai, MD, based in Melbourne, Florida, who graciously shared insights on the common symptoms, triggers, treatment options, and ways to support those suffering from migraines.

Q: What are the most common symptoms of migraines?
A: The most common symptoms of migraines are typically very severe headaches. Patients often describe a throbbing headache that can last for several hours if not treated. Additionally, individuals may experience sensitivity to light and sounds, as well as a sense of nausea or vomiting. During migraine attacks, patients prefer to rest in a quiet, dark room.

Q: What are some causes or triggers for migraines?
A: Migraine triggers can vary from person to person. It’s important for individuals to pay attention to their own unique triggers. Some commonly reported triggers include certain fragrances, such as perfumes, smoke-filled rooms, and even the smell of different substances. Less common triggers can also include dietary factors, such as artificial sweeteners, which may go unnoticed as a potential cause.

Q: What are the treatment options for migraines?
A: Treatment options for migraines depend on the individual and the severity and frequency of their migraines. For sporadic migraines, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can be effective. However, more chronic migraines often require a combination of therapies. This can involve preventative measures as well as addressing breakthrough headaches. Treatment may include prescription medications, lifestyle changes, and addressing other health factors like contraception, weight loss, or insomnia. Preventative medications may be needed on a daily basis to help manage and reduce the frequency of migraines. It’s important that treatment and management approaches are tailored to each individual’s needs.

Q: How can people with chronic migraines seek help or take preventative measures for the condition?
A: Individuals with chronic migraines should seek medical help to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Consulting with a health care professional experienced in migraine management is crucial. They can evaluate the individual’s specific situation and recommend appropriate preventative measures, which may include lifestyle modifications, stress management techniques, and medications. Keeping a headache diary can also be helpful in identifying triggers and patterns to aid in prevention.

Q: How can loved ones support those suffering from chronic migraines?
A: Migraines are a common medical comorbidity, with women experiencing a 20 percent annual incidence and men experiencing 5–10 percent. Supporting loved ones with migraines starts with understanding the debilitating nature of the condition and its prevalence. Migraines are one of the leading causes of disability. Having a better understanding of the triggers and symptoms can help loved ones provide appropriate support during an attack, such as creating a comfortable environment with indirect lighting and giving the individual time and space to rest. Being aware of triggers and the need for rest can go a long way toward alleviating the impact of migraines on a person’s well-being.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about migraines?
A: It’s important to remember that migraines are not simply isolated headaches. If there are any changes in headache frequency or patterns, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Any significant changes in headache pain and frequency should be brought to the attention of a health care professional. Migraine sufferers also tend to be at increased risk for other medical problems, such as cardiovascular issues. Therefore, migraines should be considered as part of an individual’s overall health and medical care.

Steward Medical Group Neurologist Dr. Daniel Lai, MD

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