Migraine Pain Is Treatable
If you suspect you have migraine, talk with your healthcare professional. Try to get a sense for whether she can diagnose and manage the condition herself, or instead would like to refer you to a headache specialist. Dr. Diamond recommends the National Headache Foundation (www.headaches.org; 1-888-NHF-5552) as a resource for finding a specialist in your area.
It's also a good idea to start keeping a headache diary, in which you note when each headache occurs, how severe it is, any relief measures you use and how effective they are, impact on your life (missed work, activities, etc.), and what triggers may have caused it. Many people with migraine are able to identify specific triggers ranging from alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and other foods, to stress and anxiety, to weather conditions, to skipped meals, to hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle and/or oral contraceptives. The American Council for Headache Education Web site (www.achenet.org) features a sample diary that can get you started.
Based on that information, your healthcare professional can help you develop an approach for managing your condition. Dr. Diamond says she tells all of her patients to make certain lifestyle or behavioral changes such as eating regularly, sleeping regularly, avoiding any trigger foods, exercising, and regulating caffeine and alcohol. Some will find relief with these changes and with over-the-counter pain relievers.
But when these strategies don't work, or when pain is consistently rated as moderate or severe, a triptan is usually the best treatment option. Dr. Diamond notes that it's not uncommon for a patient to try more than one brand of triptan before finding one that works for her. Triptans are not recommended for people who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, or who have multiple risk factors for the condition. Triptans also cannot be taken with certain other medications. (Talk to your healthcare professional about the specifics of your situation.)
But for most people, Dr. Diamond says, "triptans are incredibly safe."
"I think people need to understand that we have an effective therapy that can get you relief as soon as possible," she says. "Go get diagnosed and treated, so that you can get back to normal functioning."