As headaches go, migraines are in a league of their own.
Migraines typically produce pulsating pain on one side of the head. That can lay you low for up to 72 hours.
About 20% of people with migraines have headaches preceded by aura, which can include:
blind spots or zigzags in your field of vision
Aura may also include numbness or tingling on one side of the body. Aura without head pain is also a form of migraine.
Migraines are often prompted by one...
You have moderate-to-severe headache pain that is disabling and interfering with your life despite treatment
You have at least three moderate-to-severe headache days per month
Your migraines are seriously affecting your quality of life
You are taking migraine painkillers very frequently
Your current migraine drugs are not providing sufficient relief
You are having side effects from current headache drugs
You prefer to take a preventive approach
You don't mind taking a daily medication
You have uncommon migraine conditions, like prolonged aura
Migraine Prevention Drugs Are Usually Not Used If:
You have mild-to-moderate pain that is not disabling
You have less than three moderate-to-severe headache days per month
Your headaches are controlled by drugs like NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories like Aleve or Motrin) or triptans
You don't have side effects from those drugs
You don't take those drugs frequently
You're not ready to take a daily migraine medication
You have other health conditions that do not allow you to take preventive drugs
You cannot tolerate side effects of preventive drugs
There might be negative drug interactions with other medications you are taking
You prefer a non-drug treatment (like biofeedback)
Migraine Drugs and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant or want to get pregnant, here's good news: Your migraines will likely ease up during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
However, if you have severe migraines, doctors may advise first trying a non-drug approach such as biofeedback, relaxation therapy, or stress-management training . Or your doctor may suggest trying those approaches along with a preventive drug therapy that has the lowest risk possible.
Talk to your doctor about your thoughts on taking preventive medications for migraines. Together, you can decide the best approach for your headache problems.
American Academy of Neurology: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Migraine Headache.
George R. Nissan, DO, director of research, Diamond Headache Clinic, Chicago.
Richard Senelick, MD on August 29, 2012
This tool provides general information and
recommendations, and may not address specific individual circumstances. Do not
rely on it exclusively to make decisions about your health. Always consult your
doctor for personal medical advice.