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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Is Your Migraine Treatment Working?

With a battalion of drugs to cut migraine frequency, are you making progress in your migraine treatment?
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WebMD Feature

If you're battling frequent migraines, relief is in sight. It's possible to reduce the number of headaches by one-half, maybe more.

In recent years, doctors have discovered that certain drugs -- found among epilepsyepilepsy, blood pressure, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant medicines -- can reduce headache frequency and severity.

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These drugs are believed to affect blood vessel and brain chemical activity involved in migraines. "We're not clear on exactly how these drugs work to prevent migraines, but we've had good success with them," says George R. Nissan, DO, director of research for the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago.

The pattern of migraine frequency is an important factor in treatment. Most migraine sufferers have four to six headaches a month. "Some have tension headaches every day – a background headache -- plus migraines," says Nissan.

Relentless migraines take a heavy toll on quality of life. "People lose jobs, drop out of school, get divorced," Nissan tells WebMD. "There can be a lot of depressiondepression and anxiety. Lives have been turned upside down by these headaches."

That's where preventive treatment can help, he says. Some people can eventually become headache-free, but that's pretty rare, says Nissan. "More often than not, we're helping people to be functional. We work to minimize, as much as possible, the frequency and severity of migraines."

The question is, how?

Migraine Treatment: Your Game Plan

Preventive medications have helped greatly, says Jerome Goldstein, MD, director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Center and Headache Clinic. "In our clinical trials of these drugs, we have achieved 50% to 60% reduction in migraine frequency and severity."

However, the preventive drugs aren't perfect. They must be taken every day to be effective. Also, some brand-name preventive medications can be costly. Many have side effects -- including weight gain, fatiguefatigue, sleepiness, numbness, tingling, and nausea.

If you have other health problems or take other medications, you might be limited in the preventive drugs you can use, says Nissan. However, if you have a seizure disorder like epilepsyepilepsy or high blood pressurehigh blood pressure, your migraine medication can overlap in treating that disorder, too.

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