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Nerve-Stimulating Device Might Ease Migraines

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At the same time, however, the analysis revealed that half of all topiramate patients had experienced drug-related side effects, compared with none among the stimulation device users. A quarter of all topiramate patients had ended up dropping the drug altogether due to the harshness of the side effects.

Commenting on the new study findings, Dr. Gretchen Tietjen, chair of neurology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio, and director of the center's headache treatment and research program, said: "It's certainly true that for some people side effects are really problematic. Depending on the class of medication, there can be problems with weight gain, hair loss, thinking, sedation, dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness and, for men, particular sexual side effects."

Tietjen added, "So there are a lot of very real issues here. And looking for other approaches like this definitely makes sense."

Study author Schoenen noted that apart from Belgium, the supraorbital transcutaneous stimulator is currently also available in France and Canada, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process is still "ongoing."

Meanwhile, several different follow-up investigations are planned. One will look at the device's impact on patients who suffer more frequent (chronic) migraines, while another will explore a newer stimulation approach in which a similar device will target the suboccipital nerve (also found in the head) in addition to the supraorbital nerve.

That said, Schoenen cautioned that as a practical matter the cost of the device in question is "not trivial," currently priced in Belgium at 300 Euro (about $400). She suggested that patients considering the intervention might want to start out by renting the stimulator for two to four months, to see whether or not they realize any benefits before making a purchase.

More information

For more on migraines, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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