by Nesreen Suwan, M.D.
Are you among the approximately 30 million Americans, primarily women, affected by migraine headaches? When the migraine strikes, do you find yourself prisoner in a quiet dark room, disabled and unable to perform normal functions? Do the migraine headaches disrupt your life, cause you to break social commitments, and miss work?
Migraine symptoms include some or all of the following:
Moderate to severe head pain, sensitivity to light, sound, or smell, nausea and/or vomiting, lack of concentration, scalp tenderness, worsening of symptoms when bending over, going up stairs, or doing simple household or job activities.
Studies have concluded that migraine headaches are genetic in origin and caused by a sensitized nervous system.
Symptoms of migraine headaches are frequently treated with over the counter analgesics. The overuse of over the counter analgesics to treat migraines may actually result in more resistant rebound headaches and a worsening of symptoms when future migraines occur. As such, migraine sufferers come to believe that these debilitating headaches are a normal part of their lives.
While migraine is not a fatal illness, it kills the quality of life of its victims. Migraine sufferers frequently feel guilty over the disruption it causes to others, which adds unbearable stress on his or her relationships with spouse, children, and co-workers. Family members frequently feel stress over being unable to help the headache sufferer, and for occasionally doubting the pain and suffering of their loved one. Along with guilt come unhappiness, resentment, and anger on the part of the family member or co-worker who ends up doing more than his or her share of the work.
Misdiagnosis and treatment of migraines as sinus headaches can cause a worsening of symptoms.
The most important step, therefore, in any headache management is an accurate diagnosis. It is important to find out if the patient is suffering from one type of headache or more than one type of headache. Ruling out underlying medical conditions is extremely important as well. After reaching the accurate diagnosis, treatment options include and are not limited to medications, alternative medicine, nerve blocks, Botox injection, and nerve stimulation. Patients may respond to one or a combination of the above noted modalities.
Because migraine is a neurological disorder that involves changes in the brain and its vessels, it should be treated under the care of a specialist.
Even if you have been seen or treated for headaches in the past, it would be well worth your time to find out whether new treatment options are available, or whether your current treatment is right for you. A headache specialist can work with you to release you from your dark room and recapture your life!
Nesreen Suwan, M.D. is a board-certified neurologist, and is board certified in pain medicine and sleep medicine, with additional certifications in headache medicine. She is the director of Specialty Headache and Fibromyalgia Clinic in suburban Lisle. Dr. Suwan is highly recognized as a headache specialist and is a nationally known speaker in her field.
If Only This Headache Would Go Away!
As Featured In Glancer Magazine, August 2013