Local neurologists raise awareness about migraines
June 23, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
With migraines afflicting more than 30 million people in the U.S., two local neurologists and Baptist Health are raising awareness and providing treatment solutions to reduce the pain.
National Migraine Awareness Month in June also heightens education about migraines, which are three times more common in women than men. “Migraine is a brain disease,” said
Erin G. Doty, MD, a neurologist, who is board-certified in neurology and headache medicine and provides inpatient coverage at Baptist Medical Center Beaches. “Migraines are real and are not due to stress or working on a computer. Those things can make migraines worse, but you get migraines because you have a migraine disorder, not because you have stress.”
Migraines can be triggered by numerous internal and external environmental factors, such as change in weather, menstrual cycle, insufficient sleep or poor eating.
Dr. Doty added that people who have allergies and asthma have a higher incidence of migraines.
Syed A. Asad, MD, chief of Neurology for Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, also emphasizes that “every headache is not a migraine.” Some characteristics of a migraine include: a visual aura or flashing light; nausea; vomiting; light or sound sensitivity. The pain is usually moderate to severe in intensity and lasts for four to 72 hours if untreated. Excessive use of over-the-counter medications can make the problem worse, especially headache medicines that often contain a lot of caffeine which can contribute to patients developing chronic migraines.
“A lot of people overmedicate themselves with over-the-counter medication,” Dr. Asad said. “If you overdue it, you can cause a gastric ulcer and it can affect your kidney function.”
People with frequent headaches should see their primary physicians. If the primary is not able to help, they should see a neurological specialist, Dr. Asad said.
New and more effective prescription medications for headache prevention and to treat headaches are available and “can give you back control of your life,” Dr. Doty added.
The use of Botox has been approved since 2010 for migraines. To qualify, Dr. Asad said insurance companies require a person to have 15 migraine days a month with each lasting four hours or more. Another requirement is that they should have tried two or three prophylactic p
rescription medications that did not work or caused side effects.
People can also try to avoid certain triggers such as stress, sleep deprivation or eating food that is rich in tyramines, nitrates and nitrites such as chocolate, cheese or alcohol. Artificial sweeteners can also be a trigger.
“Reducing stress is important and regular exercise can also help to decrease headache frequency and intensity,” Dr. Asad said.