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Clinical Corner

Migraines with Dr. Carrie Bernstein, headache specialist at the Arnold Pain Center and a migraine sufferer.

One in ten people in this country is a migraineur (a person who gets migraines). In fact, migraine headaches are among the most common disabilities in the world (more common than diabetes and asthma). Yet they are often misunderstood, even among doctors.

Q: How do migraines differ from regular headaches?

A: Migraines differ from regular headaches in many ways. Most people will get a tension-type headache at some point in their lives--you can usually continue working and get through the day despite the headaches. Migraines are different; sometimes, there is an aura with flashing lights or a hole in the vision. The pain is very severe, throbbing and pulsating, and is usually on just one side of the head. People feel nauseated, often vomit, and need to lie down in a dark and quiet room. Migraines often run in a family as well.

Q: What are common migraine triggers?

A: Common triggers are red wine, not enough sleep, and hormonal changes. Not all people are sensitive to foods such as cheese, chocolate and preservatives. Everyone's triggers are different, and it takes some detective work to figure out what yours are.

Q: Are hormone migraines common?

A: Many women have migraines around the time of their menstrual period, and some have mid-cycle ovulation headaches as well. There are some targeted treatments that you can try just at those times that may help. These hormonal migraines often disappear after a woman goes through menopause.

Q: What are some of the newer medications to treat migraines?

A: Medications called "triptans" can stop a migraine early on when used correctly. They come in sprays, melts and injections as well as regular pills, and you use them as soon as you know a migraine is starting. While not right for everyone, they are often an excellent choice for stopping a migraine before it gets going.

Contact Information

Arnold Pain Management Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
One Brookline Place, Suite 105
Brookline, MA 02445