About Migraines

A migraine is a common neurologic disorder, affecting 36 million people in the United States. Migraine affects about 3 times more women than men. Research shows that migraine is more common than asthma and diabetes combined. Migraine severity generally peaks between the ages of 25 and 55, though it is common for children to also suffer migraine attacks. Migraine tends to run in families. It is common for migraine sufferers to have 1-2 migraines per month, with about 4% of migraine sufferers developing chronic daily headache (defined as 15 or more headache days per month). A migraine can last between four and 72 hours. Greater than 90% of migraine sufferers are unable to work or function normally during a migraine.

Common Migraine Symptoms:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities or face
  • 15-20% of migraine sufferers experience neurologic symptoms before the start of head pain

Common Migraine Triggers:

  • Strong odors (perfume, gasoline)
  • Caffeine or withdrawal of caffeine
  • Skipping meals
  • Alteration in sleep (including sleep apnea)
  • Stress or let-down from stress
  • Exposure to bright light
  • Exercise

Potential Food Triggers: 

  • Chocolate
  • Cured, deli and smoked meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Avocado, guacamole, bananas and dried fruit
  • Alcohol, particularly beer and red wine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG, think Chinese food!)
  • Cold foods (“ice cream headache” is more common among migraine sufferers)

Migraine Treatment


Preventative migraine treatment uses medications to reduce the number of migraines and lessen the severity of pain or associated symptoms. For some patients, life-style changes can help prevent migraine:

  • Cardiovascular medications (beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs or SNRIs.
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Botulinum toxin type A (Botox)

Complementary treatments for prevention of migraine can include biofeedback, relaxation techniques, exercise, proper rest and a healthy diet that avoids potential food triggers.

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