Q: For years, I've been suffering from migraines that seem to get worse
when the seasons change. My doctor prescribed Imitrex, which really helps alleviate
the pain. Isn't there anything natural I can do to stop the headaches
from coming in the first place, especially now that summer is on the way?
Dr. Donnica: Migraine is much more than just a headache. It's a chronic
and recurrent throbbing pain on one side of the head, with or without other symptoms
like sensitivity to light or sound, visual changes, and nausea or vomiting. Migraines
are 6 times more common in women than in men. One out of 4 women with migraine
will get them monthly along with her period. Many patients experience an increased
sensitivity to or frequency of migraine in different seasons, but without consistency.
In one study, spring was cited by 14% of patients as a time of increased attacks,
followed by fall (13%), summer (11%) and winter (7%).
For some women with mild migraine, treatment may consist of over-the-counter
medicine (e.g. Excedrin Migraine, Extra Strength Tylenol, or Motrin) and lying
down in a dark, quiet room for several hours. For many others, prescription
medication is the only effective treatment. Migraine prevention focuses on avoiding
specific triggers for your migraines. The list of potential triggers
is long and varies in individuals, but it includes certain foods (chocolate,
smoked fish, nuts, pickled foods, or aged cheese); beverages (red wine, other
alcoholic beverages; caffeine withdrawal); food additives (nitrates, nitrites
or MSG); environmental factors (bright or flashing lights; changes in weather;
increased stress; missed meals; changes in altitude); significant changes in
sleep (too much or too little); hormonal changes (pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome,
and perimenopause); and some medications (birth control pills, hormone replacement
therapy, some antidepressants, some blood pressure medications). To help identify
your potential triggers, keep a headache diary that lists all exposures and
symptoms. Discuss this with your doctor at your next visit.
Created: 3/4/2005  - Donnica Moore, M.D.