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Headaches - New Treatment

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Photo Courtesy of Google Adam

Photo Courtesy of Google Adam

Migraines with Auras May Cause Strokes

Migraine headaches can be quite debilitating and are now considered more dangerous when preceded by auras, as they may cause a stroke. A migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by altered bodily perceptions, severe headaches, and nausea. Other symptoms include sound and light sensitivity.

Also about 1/3 of migraine sufferers have migraines preceded by auras. An aura is kind of a warning symptom which includes flashes or light, blind spots or tingling in your arm or leg.

A typical migraine is unilateral and affects one half of your head and the pulsating can last from 4 to 72 hours. I had migraine headaches when I was younger with the aura, which was always a visual disturbance in my case, plus the pain always started in my right temple. Fortunately, I rarely get a migraine anymore, and the medicine relieves it rather quickly.



Different Types of Headaches

Migraine treatments often include anti-nausea and analgesic drugs and medications. There is no cure, but there are medications that help reduce the frequency and the severity of the headaches.

There are several different types of headaches that can be very painful, including:

  • Migraines
  • Tension
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus
  • Cluster

With any of these headaches you are just looking for headache relief. Migraines usually begin in childhood or adolescence and are equally divided between boys and girls, but 75% of the adult patients are women.

Brain Electrical Impulses

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Possible Causes of Migraines

The cause of migraines is unknown but there are some factors that may trigger a migraine – MedlinePlus medical encyclopedia:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Bright lights, loud noises, and certain odors or perfumes
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Smoking or exposure to smoke
  • Skipping meals
  • Alcohol
  • Menstrual cycle fluctuations, birth control pills, hormone fluctuations during the menopause transition
  • Tension headaches
  • Foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans), monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami)
  • Other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods.
  • Long exposures to light from computer screen, video screens, and TV

Typical Migraine Symptoms

These are some of the typical symptom as listed by Mayo Clinic:

  • Moderate to severe pain, which may be confined to one side of the head or may affect both sides
  • Head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality
  • Pain that worsens with physical activity
  • Pain that interferes with your regular activities
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Some symptoms may linger after the migraine headache, such as a mentally dull feeling, unclear thinking, neck pain and an increased need for sleep. Keep a diary of the headaches and you might find some things that trigger your headaches, which may help to eliminate them from your life.

Photo Courtesy of Google Adam

Photo Courtesy of Google Adam

Migraine Treatments

There are a number of medications that are now available for migraine treatment, and sometimes you have to try a couple before you find the right one for yourself. Some people do use over the counter drugs like Tylenol, Ibuprofen and anti-nausea medications, but I never found them to be helpful.

The most exciting new development is a medication that is an anti-CGRP migraine treatment specifically created to prevent migraines. "CGRP stands for calcitonin gene-related peptide, and it is a protein that is released around the brain." This protein causes intense inflammation in the meninges, which is the covering over the brain. The new medication is a monoclonal antibody, which works against the CGRP problem. It is injected by the patient, and it is an erenumab (Aimovig is the brand name).

Aimovig typically works within a month as the doctor works with the patient to find the correct dosage. Side effects are very few. The patient will use a subcutaneous auto-injector for the medication.

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Some of the other migraine medications the doctor can prescribe include some drugs in the Triptan family such as Axert, Frova, Maxalt, Imitrex and Zomig.

There are also Ergots such as Cafergot, which has caffeine. Caffeine can sometimes stop a migraine if you can get a cup of coffee in you before the migraine gets a good start. I worked with a girl that used that method very effectively. Also there is Isometheptene (Midrin). Of course, your physician will discuss these options with you. I finally found Maxalt to be the most effective for me.

There is also a natural migraine treatment that you may find on the internet. One I have heard about is feverfew, but there are some possible side effects and allergic reactions. I would always discuss anything I was going to take with my doctor. This hub is for information purposes only and not to recommend any particular treatment.

Symptoms and Stages Of A Migraine

Heal your Migraine

Study of People with Migraines with Auras

There are some new statistics that link migraines, particularly those with auras, to increased death from cardiovascular disease and hemorrhagic strokes, according to the findings of two large studies. The researchers do emphasize that the overall risk is still low. The results of the first study were published in the Boston Medical Journal.

In the first study completed in Iceland, they assessed the impact migraine episodes in 18,725 men and women born between 1907 and 1935. The study cohort was part of the Reykjavik Study, which was started in 1967, by the Icelandic Heart Association to prospectively study cardiovascular disease in Iceland. Participants were followed for 40 years, until the end of 2007. Overall there were 10,358 deaths, 4,323 from cardiovascular disease and 6,035 from other causes.

After adjusting for baseline risk factors, age, and sex, the study found that people who had migraines with an aura were at increased risk for all-causes of mortality, plus mortality from cardiovascular disease including strokes, compared with people with no headache.

No increased risk was found for people with migraines without auras or people with regular headaches. The study also showed that women with migraines who had auras were at increased risk for mortality from non-cardiovascular disease

Hope for Migraine Sufferers from the New FDA-approved Drug

Second Study - Harvard

In the second study, done at Harvard Medical School, the group used data from the Woman’s Health Study to examine associations between migraines and migraines with auras and the risk for hemorrhagic stroke. The study included 27.860 women 45 years or older who were free from stroke or other major diseases at that time. The women filled out questionnaires that asked specific questions about migraines and migraines with auras.

Overall, 5130 women (18%) reported having a history of migraine. Of this number, 3612 reported having a migraine in the previous year and were classified as having active migraine, and 40% of the women with active migraine reported having migraine with aura. During an average of 13.6 years of follow-up (377,711 patient years), 100 confirmed hemorrhagic strokes occurred. This study, which was only for women unlike the first study, showed a higher risk for hemorrhagic strokes.

What it all boils down to is the relative risk measure indicated about a 2-fold increased risk for an individual woman with migraine headache, with aura, which is actually very low. They can’t really tell a woman who has migraines with aura if she is any more likely to have a stroke or not at this time.

In Summary

Really the bottom line is, if you are one of those women with migraines that have auras, be a little more conservative in treating risk factors, such as smoking. Keep your blood pressure at a normal level, exercise, keep your weight at a normal level, and try to avoid stress to help avoid migraines. The best thing to do when you feel a migraine starting is to take you medicine and lie down in a dark quiet room and hopefully it will pass quickly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 20, 2019:

Hi NewLifeOutlook, Unfortunately, I did not get a message about your comment, and just found it today. I am sorry you to hear you had a stroke at that age, and I do hope you are doing well now. Thank you for commenting.

NewLifeOutlook on February 16, 2018:

I had a stroke in my early twenties after suffering from migraines with aura. This was very insightful!

nguyendungbkc on June 24, 2015:

I learned some new information from your hub. I never heard of tyamine and plan to do read more about it. Thanks for sharing this.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 22, 2014:

Penny,I used Imitrex also with good results when I had those headaches. I appreciate your comments.

Penny Godfirnon from Southern Iowa on September 21, 2014:

I am 56 and the come in spurts now. Ill have bad months, then a break and then it starts again. I am thankful Imitrex has worked so well of rme.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2014:

Penny, I am sorry to heear you and so many family members auffer from tgese headaches. I used to have them, but as I got older they have become extremely rare. I hope the same holds true for you. Thank you for sharing your experience and your comments.

Penny Godfirnon from Southern Iowa on September 19, 2014:

My Father had migraines, I have migraines, and three of my children have migraines. Imitrex is my miracle drug, I have taken it since 1998. We all have aura and have a numb and, numb mouth, it effects our speech, and thinking. For three days after we have what we call a migraine hang over. Mine started when I was 9. My children were around 11 or12. It wasn't until recently I really started reading about them and found the could be dangerous and strokes are possible. I often thought they surely effect the vascular system beyond the migraine it self. Many times ours start after a stressful event has passed then, WHAM it hits us. I have a migraine bag for when it hits. My husband carries an imitrex in his key chain pill holder and I just say Migraine and he gets it. We have tupperware midgets with 2 ounces of water handy always. I must take it immediately to intercept it. If I am lucky, it will be 20 minutes and the aura starts to slowly go away.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 13, 2013:

kamerongroup, I had some similar symptoms, but my migraines have slowing stopped. I wish you the same experience. Vaso-occulsion is serious, but it may be vasospams. That would be more likely and not so serious. I wish you well and thanks for your comments.

kamerongroup on July 12, 2013:

Excellent Hub Pamela. I suffer from migranes occasionally during drastic changes in the atmospheric or barometric pressures. I noticed they would occur during the seasonal transitions or from dry to humid environments. They have lessen to a degree especially with severity of pain. But they do begin with an aura of which can differentiate from either cluster or migrane. And on occasion I would notice a mild disorientation or paralysis as the pain subsides. And I was suspicious of temporary vaso-occulsion, which is not something to be taken lightly. Thanx!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 26, 2013:

ABWright, Good luck with your plans. It would be great if you could do some public speaking on this topic as generallly speaking most people do not know the risks of this medical condition. Thanks for sharing your comments.

ABWright on January 25, 2013:

Thanks Pamela. I have been talking to anyone who will listen about this, as I find most people know someone who gets aura migraines and should know the associated risks. I am going back to work in a few weeks and will be monitoring very closely whether or not the stress brings them on again! I do a lot of public speaking, and have been told its one of my strongest traits, and as such am seeking a research study or related conference where I might be able to add some value as a presenter. A friend in the medical field tells me that conferences featuring a patient speaker are usually the most enjoyable/informative. I hope to use my experience for some good.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2013:

ABWright, I think your story should be shared as it sure may help others prevent a stroke. I wonder if an MRI with contrast would have shown a weakness or abnormality in one of your blood vessels. Surgery would have been the only option though and sometimes surgery is not possible depending on where the defect it located. I think you are so fortunate that you are recovering so well. It sure sounds like the auras were a clear sign in your case. I hope you recover fully. I appreciate you telling us about your experience.

ABWright on January 22, 2013:

At 38 years old, 15 months ago, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. I have also suffered migraines since my teens, and often the aura is all I get. In the months leading up to the stroke, I was getting these aura migraines frequently, sometimes more than once a week. I was also on birth control and had been for several years. The day of my stroke I had a migraine & aura from early in the morning. The headache was like none I'd ever had before and within 24hrs, I had suffered a stroke and massive brain hemmhorhage. I have had a tremendous recovery, with few physical challenges left and no cognitive impairment. It is frustrating, though, because I have told doctors for years about these aura migraines and was always told they are 'normal'. I don't think it's a coincidence that I have not had one since this happened! I am hoping to share my story and have it help doctors and /or other young women who may be at risk.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 27, 2011:

nivek1, Thank you so much for your comments.

nivek1 on September 27, 2011:

An interesting article and certainly a good read with plenty of useful information

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 24, 2011:

Eileen, I'm sorry to hear that you suffer with the horrible migraines. The article wasn't meant to be enjoyable but informative. Thank you for sharing your experience and for your comments. I wish you the best.

EILEEN VICENTE on March 24, 2011:

I wouldn't call this an enjoyable article, since I suffer and I do mean suffer from visual migraines. I hate them with a passion! In addition, strokes run in my family, so the fact that I have them scares me to no end! If I have a severe stroke shoot me please! I do think that this article is very informative, and I appreciate the fact that it was available. However, I would never label it enjoyable!!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2010:

Lady Guinevere, Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad you're free of them now.

Debra Allen from West Virginia on October 19, 2010:

I had migraines up until I was about in my 30's I also had the shimmering just before my migraine pain hit and also the tunnel vision. I had about 10 minutes to get some pain killers into me or I was definatley going to feel pain.

I do remember when my first daughter was a young baby that I laid in a very dark room for 3 days and someone had to take care of my baby girl. I could not move or it made it worse and the nausea--ugh! I am so glad that I don't have them anymore!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 19, 2010:

Ayush, A hemorrhagic stroke can be fatal. It is certainly an medical emergency and you would call 911 for anyone with stroke symptoms.

Ayush on October 19, 2010:

Is it fatal?

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 17, 2010:

Leanman, That is exactly how people describe the headaches. I guess you need to take a break more freqently to see if it helps. Thanks for your comments.

Tony from At the Gemba on September 16, 2010:

I always have blind spots before I get a migraine, just as you described. Mine are always when I have been at the computer too long or when I am over tired. I will watch for other problems!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 15, 2010:

Anna Marie, I am sorry to hear you get both. I have always heard people say that cluster headaches are extremely painful. Good luck with finding some relief and I appreciate your sharing your situation.

Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on September 15, 2010:

I not only get cluster headaches, but also migraines, with distorted body perceptions. I can always tell when I am going to get a migraine, because I either feel really tiny, or part of me feels overly large. No auras, though.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 15, 2010:

KK Gals, It's to be able to control them now. There are a lot better meds out there now. Thanks for sharing your comments.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on September 15, 2010:

Wonderful information. I used to get migraines with the aura warning. I would see the dots of light appear and start to swim before my eyes and then - pow-there was the headache. Luckily I can control mine, for the most part with medication. They can be truly debilitating. Thanks for the tips and information.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 15, 2010:

Jasper, I am sorry to hear you have them so often. I hope you take good care of yourself and I appreciate your sharing this problem.

jasper420 on September 15, 2010:

very scary and usefull info i suffer from migraines about two to three times a week i learned vauble info from this hub thanks

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 11, 2010:

Sandy, The percentage of women getting strokes was fairly small but just a bit higher then those who didn't get an aura with the headache. Thanks for your comments and stay well!

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on September 10, 2010:

Thanks Pamela. I often wonder if I will get a stroke. I have suffered this type of headache since I was 20. I don't get them as often, but I still get them. Valuable information.

Wife Who Saves on September 10, 2010:

I learned some new information from your hub. I never heard of tyamine and plan to do read more about it. Thanks for sharing this.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 10, 2010:

Wendy, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thank your for your comments.

Wendy Henderson from Cape Coral on September 10, 2010:

I don't get migraines and I never heard about the aura after a migraines. Thanks for educating me. This is great information.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 10, 2010:

Hello, I am so sorry to hear about your mother. Thanks for your comments.

BK, Thank you so much for your comments.

Anginwu, Thanks for your comments.

anglnwu on September 09, 2010:

I don't normally get migraines--thank God but i find the information very useful. You've provided some solid scientific findings--very informative for those suffering from migraines. Thanks.

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on September 09, 2010:

This is so scary - but you have shared some very vital information. We need to be informed.

And yes, I think sometimes getting older helps - our hormones work for us. While I don't have migraines I do get the occasional headache - but with less responsibility in my life the headaches are rare.

I'll share this and rated up of course.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 09, 2010:

My mother suffered terrible with this. She was vormitting for three days, completely oversensitive to noise and smell. She had for years. Anybody who suffers with that has my full sympathy.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 09, 2010:

Diamond, I hope your wife improves. I have no idea why mine became infrequent and less intense but maybe getting older is the answer. Thanks for your comments.

Tom, Maybe you daughter had an allergic response to something. Of course, if that were the case it would be nice to know what. Hope she never has another migraine. Thanks for your comment.

Roberta, Your friend certainly had a serious case. I appreciate your compliments.

Roberta99 on September 09, 2010:

Very informative hub. Fortunately I do not get migraines,,but had a friend who always ended up in the hospital. She had a terrible time. Very in depth article.

Tom Whitworth from Moundsville, WV on September 09, 2010:


Thank you for this valuable information. My daughter Jennifer had an episode with an aura with slight headache following. She went to a neurologist, and he found nothing wrong. He thought it was an isolated allergic reaction, but we were relieved!!!!!!!

Good Hub!!!!!!!!!

Bob Diamond RPh from Charlotte, NC USA on September 09, 2010:

I don't get migraines, Pam. I guess because I'm not a worrier. My wife worries enough for both of us and she gets some horrible migraines.

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