3/3/08 #7 - Can chronic migraines cause damage?

Health Professional

Full Question:

My 16 year old daughter has had migraines with auras for over 2 years. They have gotten progressively worse and have become transformed, chronic migraines. She recently had a daily headache which lasted 6 months that was stopped by IV medicines in the hospital. She is on preventatives of Topamax, Migravent, and Sansert. She has also been treated with Botox. I stay in close contact with her physicians. She has been pain free for only 10 weeks out of the last 8 months. Her pain level is 3-5 on a daily basis; she attends school and participates in sports other than during an extreme migraine attack. Medication overuse is not a factor for her. We also cannot identify any food triggers.

My question is: Can these chronic migraines cause damage? We are trying to weigh out the risks of IV DHE, steroids, etc. and the risk of having a low to moderate headache almost all the time. Also, I have read that acupuncture has helped some people with chronic headaches. Thank you, Laura.


Dear Laura;

Your question does not spell out what type of damage you are asking about. If you mean damage to the brain, then there is some evidence (from MRI studies) that certain brain areas can show changes of chronic migraines. Whether this represents actual damage or not is simply not known.

The risks of IV medications, from my point of view, are minimal to nonexistent. If they do what they are supposed to, namely, treat the specific headache flare up, then the patient is surely going to win. If they don't, then another strategy can be tried. Acupuncture certainly can be tried for selected patients although I know very few people with experience in this regard.

Good luck in the search for your daughter's headache relief,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

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