How Is a Migraine With Aura Diagnosed?
Before determining treatment, your doctor will want to be sure that there are no other causes for your headache. So, it's likely the doctor will perform physical and perhaps neurologic exams. In addition, your doctor will ask you about your health history, including questions such as these:
- Do other family members have migraines or other kinds of headaches?
- Do you have any allergies?
- What is the level of stress in your life?
- Do you use medications such as birth control pills or vasodilators that could cause headaches?
- Do you exert yourself physically or notice that headaches start after coughing or sneezing?
Your doctor may also request these tests to be sure that the headache is not caused by other factors:
- blood tests
- imaging such as X-ray, CT scan, or MRI
- checks for infection, bleeding, or other medical problems that could cause similar symptoms
How Is Migraine With Aura Treated?
If there are underlying causes for your headaches, your doctor will recommend treatment appropriate to the cause. If your headaches are determined to be migraines with aura, your treatment involves two goals: relieving symptoms and preventing future attacks. Lifestyle changes, medications, and even a magnetic device are available to help sufferers treat and prevent migraines with auras.
How Are Symptoms of Migraine With Aura Relieved?
Your doctor may recommend these actions to help relieve symptoms when a migraine with aura occurs:
- Stay in a quiet, dark room.
- Place cold compresses or use pressure on the painful areas.
- Take pain-relieving medications such as aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), or Tylenol #3 (Tylenol with codeine).
- Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (call NSAIDS) to ease pain, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or Toradol (ketorolac).
- Take prescription medications, such as Imitrex or Maxalt, that help constrict or tighten blood vessels.
- Take prescription analgesics to relieve pain and encourage sleep.
- Use drugs to treat related symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
- Use the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS), a prescription device placed on the back of the head at the onset of a migraine with aura. It then releases a pulse of magnetic energy and stimulates part of the brain, which may stop or lessen pain.
How Can Future Migraines With Aura Be Prevented?
Your doctor may suggest ways to help prevent additional migraines with aura. These steps include taking certain medications and identifying any triggers that cause migraines.
Medications to prevent migraines. Certain drugs developed for other purposes have been used successfully in preventing migraines. These include:
- beta-blockers such as Tenormin (atenolol), Inderal (propranolol), and Blocadren (timolol)
- antidepressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline) and Pamelor (nortriptyline)
- ergot derivatives such as Sansert (methysergide)
- antihistamines such as Periactin (cyproheptadine)
- anticonvulsants such as Depakene and Depakote (valproic acid)
Cefaly. Cefaly is the first FDA-approved device for preventing migraines in people over age 18. The portable headband-like device gives electrical impulses on the skin at the forehead. This stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which is associated with migraine headaches. Cefaly is used once a day for 20 minutes, and when it's on you'll feel a tingling or massaging sensation.