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Is My Headache a Migraine?
Symptoms of Migraine Headaches
Screening and Diagnosis for Migraines
Treatment Options for Migraines
What is The Treatment for Moderate or Severe Migraines?
Alternative Ways for Treating Migraines
How Can You Prevent or Avoid Migraines?
What Are Migraine Triggers?
Prophylactic Medications to Reduce or Avoid Migraines
Types of Migraines
Cryotherapy:  Ice Relief for Migraine Headaches
An Optical Migraine FAQ
Migraines and Pregnancy
The Art of Massaging Migraine Headaches
Migraine Headaches and the Weather
Menstrual Migraines
Migraines and the Smoking Connection
Well-Known Migraine Triggers
The Migraine-Aspartame Connection
Stress & the Migraine Sufferer
Sexually-Triggered Migraines
Eye Problems & Migraines
Fragrance Migraine Triggers
Treating Menstrual Migraines
Migraine Treatment:  A Natural Approach

Prophylactic Medications to Reduce or Avoid Migraines

What medications should migraine sufferers consider?  Those who only have mild or infrequent attacks might need only OTC analgesics. Those who experience moderate, severe or frequent attacks during the month as well as those whose headaches don't respond well to medicines should try to figure out their triggers and avoid them by modifying their lifestyle. Some of these lifestyle modifications could include:

  • Going to bed and getting up the same time every day.
  • Getting daily exercise, even if you're schedule is packed. This will improve the quality of your sleep and reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.
  • Never skip meals and don't go on prolonged fasts.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques to help you relax.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine you consume to no more than two caffeine beverages per day.
  • Avoid flashing or bright lights, and wear sunglasses outside on a bright day.
  • Learn to keep a migraine diary. This just means that you start noticing what foods are bringing on headaches, and jot them down. Review this diary with a doctor and ask him to help you develop a diary that avoids as many trigger foods as possible.

In addition to lifestyle modifications and analgesics, there are other medications to consider (with the help of your doctor). For instance, prophylactic medications are taken each day to reduce the duration and frequency of migraine attacks. These should be taken before the headache, not after it's begun.Several categories of prophylactic medications include beta blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, calcium-channel blockers, anticonvulsants and antiserotonin agents. The medicines with the longest proven history of use are amitriptyline (brand name Elavil), which is an antidepressant and propranolol (brand name: Inderal), which is a beta blocker. When discussing these medications with your doctor, make sure you understand the side effects of each, as well as drug interactions, and co-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

While we're on the subject of beta blockers, let's discuss exactly what these are. Put simply, they're a drug class which block effects of beta-adrenergic substances --for instance, adrenaline (or epinephrine).By blocking these effects, a beta blocker can relieve the stress on a person's heart by slowing the heart rate.These drugs have also been used for treating high blood pressure, some types of tremors, angina, stage fright, and a too-fast heart beat / palpitations. Beta blockers were discovered years ago to be effective in preventing migraine attacks.However, it's not known exactly why they work. The specific beta blockers used to prevent migraines include atenolol, propranolol, metoprolol, nadolol, and timolol.

Another migraine medication are tricyclic antidepressants (or TCAs). These prevent migraine attacks by altering the brain's neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, which the brain uses to communicate with each other. The TCAs used to prevent migraine attacks include nortriptyline amitriptyline, doxepin, imipramine, and protriptyline. There are a few side effects though, including blurred vision, a fast heart rate, difficulty urinating, constipation, dry mouth, low blood pressure as the person is standing, and weight loss or gain.

Antiserotonin medications have also been used to prevent migraines.They work by constricting the person's blood vessels, thus reducing inflammation in these vessels. However, these medicines aren't used as widely any more because of potentially dangerous side effects, including scarring of the tissue which surrounds the ureters which carry urine to the bladder. This has the potential of leading to kidney failure.

One other medication type used to prevent migraine attacks are known as calcium channel blockers (or CCBs).These drugs block entry of calcium into the heart's muscle cells and into the arteries. By blocking the calcium, CCBs reduce the heart muscle's contraction, thus decreasing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. This is why it's often used for treating high blood pressure--but they appear to also block serotonin, which helps prevent migraine attacks.Your doctor will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of each of these treatment options with you, to develop a strategy suited for you.

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