Monday, June 29, 2009

Migraine Treatments Available at LifeBridge Health

There’s no limit to what can trigger a headache. And when one strikes, there is no limit to how much time it can take away from work, family or fun.

Headaches fall into two categories: primary headaches (including tension or migraine) and secondary headaches (those resulting from brain injury or illness). The majority of headaches fall into the first category.

In fact, there are 28 million people who get migraine headaches in the United States, three-fourths of whom are women, says Adrian J. Goldszmidt, M.D., chief of the Department of Neurology at Sinai Hospital and director of the Headache Center, a program of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute.

“Those with chronic or episodic migraines may be suffering needlessly when there are treatments available,” he says.

A migraine is often a throbbing type of headache felt on one side of the head, and may cause nausea or sensitivity to light, says Goldszmidt. About one in five people with migraines experience an “aura,” which involves other neurologic symptoms, such as visual changes or numbness.

According to the American Council on Headache Education, about 60 percent of women with migraines note an increase in association with their menstrual period.

The aftershocks of a headache may have adverse consequences. According to a recent study published in the medical journal Neurology, women who suffer from chronic headaches, defined as more than 15 a month, are four times more prone to major depression than those with episodic headaches.

Plus, “migraines cause $13 billion a year in lost productivity,” Goldszmidt says.

In contrast to migraines, a tension headache is caused by tight and contracted muscles in the shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. Often related to stress or anxiety, these headaches may be caused by lack of sleep, missed meals or overwork.

A physician can help decode the reason behind a headache. When a patient seeks treatment at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Health Brain & Spine Institute, he or she will benefit from a top-notch team of physicians who adopt a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. The physician elicits details about the headaches, including specific features, duration and patterns. The patient is asked to keep a record, which can help pinpoint triggers. If needed, additional testing such as a CT scan or MRI may be ordered.

“Treatment options vary depending on the reason a headache is occurring,” Goldszmidt says. “A change or reduction in medication may help, as may changes in diet or an increase in physical activity.”

Those who get migraine headaches also may benefit from preventative medications. In addition, those who experience headaches may benefit from learning about and subsequently avoiding “triggers,” which may include alcohol, caffeine, glaring lights or certain odors. Lifestyle changes, such as sleeping more each night or changing one’s diet, may also decrease the number of headaches.

“Much more often than not, our systematic approach to headache treatment yields tangible results, with dramatic reductions in headache frequency and severity and improved quality of life,” Goldszmidt says.

For more information about the Headache Center at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute, call 410-601-WELL (9355).

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