Top Migraine Questions and Answers

Health Writer
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Our readers ask many good questions about migraines. Here are some that are relevant to many migraine patients, along with our answers.


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Migraine preventives - how long?

Q: My doctor prescribed a preventative migraine medication. How long will this take to prevent attacks?

A: Preventative medications can take two to three months to work before you see improvement according to the American Migraine Foundation. Doctors often start people on low doses and slowly increase as needed. Keep a log to note which medication you took, how often you took it, the dosage and how you feel each day. Share this with your doctor so together you can determine if the medication is effective.


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Are dull, daily headaches migraines?

Q: I have had a non-stop headache for several months. It varies in symptoms. Is this migraine?

A: There are different types of migraine, each with distinct characteristics according to the Migraine Trust: migraine without aura, Migraine with aura – a migraine with additional neurological symptom, chronic migraine, and menstrual migraine, linked to the menstrual cycle. Different treatments are available based on your diagnosis.


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Is migraine curable?

Q: Is Migraine curable?

A: At this time, there is no cure for migraine according to the American Migraine Foundation. Many treatments are aimed at stopping a headache or preventing them in the future. Some can be avoided through avoiding triggers. Some can be stopped with medication when taken at the first sign of a headache. People who have frequent headaches may find prophylactic treatments reduce their severity and frequency. While there isn’t yet a cure, there are ways to manage migraine.


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Sharp, stabbing pains?

Q: I'm having sharp, stabbing pains in my head. What could they be?

A: Unexplained head pain should always be checked out by our doctors to be sure it's nothing serious and to get the appropriate treatment. One possibility is ice pick headaches. These headaches are extremely intense, last only a few seconds, and the main symptom is short, stabbing pain according to the American Migraine Foundation. This is an uncommon type of headache and can be hard to treat because the pain is gone so quickly.


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Hysterectomy for migraine?

Q: Would having a hysterectomy help reduce the number of migraines I get or their severity?

A: Some women do experience a decrease in migraine after a hysterectomy, however, the headaches often increase in frequency or severity according to the Chicago Headache Clinic. Menstrual migraines are caused by a drop in the level of sex hormones and would still occur after a hysterectomy unless the ovaries were removed as well according to the Migraine Trust.


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Worsening light sensitivity with migraines - see an ophthalmologist?

Q: As a migraineur with increasing light sensitivity, should I be seeing an ophthalmologist?

A: Light sensitivity, photophobia, is a common symptom in migraine, About 80 percent of people with migraine indicating some light sensitivity according to the American Academy of OphthalmologyIt is important to diagnose and treat the associated condition. Wearing dark lenses, such as sunglasses, indoors, can increase light sensitivity. Rose colored glasses have been found to be more helpful.


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What about migraine and risk of stroke and heart attack?

Q: What's the real scoop about migraine increasing risk of stroke and heart attack?

A: Migraine is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems according to a study published in the BMJ. This includes heart attacks, blood clots, stroke and irregular heart rates. The risk was low but persistent according to the researchers and it was higher in the first year after diagnosis, in those with migraine with aura than without aura and higher in women than in men.


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Can painkillers really make migraines worse?

Q: Can painkillers really make Migraines worse?

A: When pain medications are used for headaches more than two or three times a week, they can cause what are called medication-overuse-headaches according to the Migraine Trust. Continuous use of medication can cause it to stop working and actually start causing headaches, which is often called the rebound phenomenon. Opioids have also been found to be ineffective in treating migraine according to the American Migraine Foundation.


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Can I take migraine meds and antidepressants?

Q: I've been told that I can't take Imitrex or similar medications with antidepressants because of serotonin syndrome. True?

A: The FDA has issued a warning regarding taking triptans for migraine and either an SSRI or SNRI for depression because of the potential of serotonin syndrome. This warning was based on theory rather than clinical presentation according to the American Migraine Foundation. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include skin flushing, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, confusion and headache.


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Sinus headache or migraine?

Q: I've been having headaches with facial pain and runny nose or congestion. Are these sinus headaches or migraine?

A: It is quite possible these are migraine. Self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraine according to the American Migraine Foundation. Migraines are commonly associated with pain in the forehead, facial pressure, nasal congestion and a runny nose. Sinus infections normally have additional symptoms, such as fever, pus from the nose, changes in smell or foul-smelling breath. If you do not have any of these symptoms, chances are it is migraine.