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Serene Branson Migraine: Your Questions Answered

Neurologist Richard B. Lipton, MD, answers questions about CBS reporter’s atypical migraine.

Are tingling/prickly sensations a symptom?

"Tingling and numbness can be symptoms of what is called sensory aura," Lipton says.

Is stress a contributing factor? What are the triggers for migraines? Do different types have different triggers?

"In people who have migraine, in some situations the chances of having an attack increase in certain circumstances. For example, drinking red wine, eating chocolate, falling barometric pressure are all triggers," Lipton says.

"Stress and relaxation after stress are also triggers in some people. Identifying and learning to avoid triggers are a common strategy in migraine management. Triggers differ markedly from one person to the next. [It's] best to learn to identify and avoid the triggers that matter for you and not everyone else."

Are migraines and pregnancy related? Migraines and menstruation?

"Migraine generally gets worse in the first trimester of pregnancy and better in the second two trimesters," Lipton says.

Lipton says menstrual periods are a "powerful" migraine trigger in many women. "Headache risk goes up from two days before bleeding starts until three days after bleeding starts in many women," he says. That may be due to a drop in estrogen levels.

Is a migraine a type of seizure?

“No,” Lipton says.

Migraine and epilepsy have some things in common. They're both neurologic disorders marked by "episodic attacks of brain dysfunction," Lipton says.

But migraines are about activation of pain pathways; seizures are about abnormal electrical activity from nerves.

Seizures and migraines do have “overlapping genetic risk factors and overlapping treatments and may occur in the same person,” Lipton says, “but they are distinct disorders.”

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