I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Lundbeck to write about the realities of migraine as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
As I shared last month, I have been a migraine sufferer for most of my adult life. I developed them in my very early 20s, before I had children. I have been on a wide-variety of treatments over the years – from daily pills to episodic treatment. After having a breast reduction and hysterectomy, my severe headaches are much more infrequent. I still get headaches though fairly regularly.
This is the second in a two-part migraine blog series that I am partnering with Med-IQ on. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Because migraine has been such a huge part of my story, and because so many people I know also suffer from them, I wanted to use my platform to share about this genetic neurologic disease.
You can read part one about migraine diagnosis here.
When Should You Seek Migraine Treatment?
How do you know when to seek treatment for migraine? According to the American Headache Society guidelines, if a patient experiences migraine attacks 4 or more days per month, they should initiate some sort of preventive treatment. Only 3% to 13% of individuals are on preventive treatment. I remember when I was first diagnosed with chronic daily migraine, I felt such relief that my constant headaches had a name and treatment was available.
Episodic migraine means you have migraine fewer than 15 days per month, and chronic migraine means you have migraine more than 15 days per month.
If you recognize that you have a lot of headaches, but maybe can’t quantify it, consider tracking them for a month. Each day, write down if you don’t have a headache, you have a mild headache or you have a severe headache. This will help your healthcare provider when you seek out treatment. You can record the headaches on a calendar, a journal or use an app.
Migraine Treatment and Prevention Options
A variety of treatment options are available for migraine sufferers. It is important to remember that treated migraine is not formulaic and takes time to find the best treatment plan. A few of the most common migraine treatment options include:
- Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used as needed.
- Neuromodulator devices that stimulate the nerves can be purchased without prescription and are recommended for patients who want a more natural approach.
- Another option is to be prescribed oral medications that are not migraine-specific, but clinical trials have shown them to be effective at preventing and/or treating migraine. I have had a lot of experience with these in my early years of migraine treatment.
It is important to note that because these medications have not been designed specifically to treat migraine, they have a higher risk of side effects that may not be well-tolerated. Because of this many people stop taking preventative oral medications. But don’t get discouraged! There were many medications I had to stop taking because of the side effects, but we did find some that worked. If you are in this boat, know that it can take as long as eight weeks before a provider can determine whether the medication is an effective preventive treatment.
A newer class of treatment for migraines are injectables, which are migraine-specific and often tolerated better than oral medications. The CGRP injectables are designed based on what scientists know about migraine, and they work to normalize brain function. These can be administered at home or as an infusion in a doctor’s office once every 12 weeks.
If you suffer from a lot of headaches, definitely talk with your primary care physician to set some treatment goals and strategies. He or she might be able to prescribe medication to help prevent your migraine attacks or refer you to a board-certified headache specialist. Be sure to come to your appointment ready to describe your symptoms and frequency of headaches — both “regular” and severe.
You deserve to feel better — and you can.
CAN YOU HELP?
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey will take just a few minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about the challenges you have experienced with diagnosing and treating migraine, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you complete the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used to randomly draw the winners and notify you of your prize if you win. Click here to take the survey.