If you’ve ever suffered from migraines, you know how they can make you feel incredibly alone. It seems everyone else can go about their lives unaffected by bright lights, loud noises, persistent nausea, or fatigue. However, according to a study published in the journal Neurosciences, migraines impact 18% of U.S. women and 6% of U.S. men.
As more people are diagnosed with migraines, research into triggers and treatments is evolving. This has led to breakthroughs in diagnosis and medication for migraines and increased understanding of the condition. Here are the recent trends in diagnosis and treatment that every migraine sufferer should know about:
Not long ago, there were few options for those seeking an end to migraine pain: find over-the-counter treatments or see a specialist, yet not every migraine sufferer finds relief from basic painkillers or other drugstore remedies.
Unfortunately, seeing a specialist can be costly, especially if there’s not one local to you. Thankfully, in the last few years, there have been great strides toward making migraine treatment more accessible.
Today you will find websites that can help you identify the right doctor and medications. Much, if not all, of your evaluation and communication with your doctor can take place online.
Additionally, more primary care physicians are receiving education on diagnosing and treating migraines. In some cases, this can eliminate the need to find a specialist. Advancement in online access to medical professionals means migraine sufferers get the treatment they need.
As more people seek relief for their migraines, what causes them becomes a more popular research topic.
For years, medical professionals did not understand migraines well. Recently, however, migraine research has expanded significantly. More informed research allows for the development of new treatments and a better understanding of migraines overall. Of the more recent discoveries, two are especially important for migraine sufferers.
For a long time, migraine research has lumped in patients who experience auras with those who do not. Now some scientists believe that migraines with auras are a separate condition from non-aura migraines. Further study into this distinction may lead to better diagnoses and therapies.
In addition to recognizing different types of migraines, scientists are also making strides in discovering what causes them. Research is now showing blood vessels may not be the underlying issue after all. This opens doors to a whole host of new treatment possibilities that may be more effective.
One of the most significant and newest developments in how migraines are treated is the approval of new medications.
Many medications currently prescribed for migraines were initially created to treat other conditions; they just also happen to work for some migraine patients. While the newly approved options won’t replace the older treatments, they offer hope to those who haven’t yet found relief.
The new medications include classes of drugs called CGPR inhibitors, “ditans,” and new acute therapies. Many of these medications were approved in late 2019 and early 2020, so they are not yet widely prescribed.
Some, like ditans, are options for those who need migraine treatment but also suffer from vascular disease. Because ditans do not constrict the blood vessels, they are a safer option for those patients.
As scientists learn more about what causes migraines, they can work to develop better treatments. As a result, there are more medication options than ever and an increased likelihood that you can find the right one.
Not every migraine sufferer wants to be on medication. Or, they may want to supplement a pharmacological treatment with something else. As advances have been made in understanding what causes migraines, developments in potentially effective treatments have followed.
One of the newer discoveries in treating or preventing migraines is the use of pulsing devices. These devices, known as neuromodulators, use magnetic or electric pulses to help treat migraines.
Currently, these devices are quite expensive and not generally covered by insurance. So while they are a promising therapy, they are not yet widely accessible — but hopefully that will change.
Other non-medication treatment options include lifestyle changes. Studies are currently ongoing to determine what lifestyle factors, like food and amount of sleep, may impact migraines.
Lack of sleep, certain foods, and stress levels can all trigger migraines. As anyone who gets migraines knows, tracking triggers and symptoms is essential. Identifying migraine triggers and avoiding them when possible can provide immense relief.
Usually, tracking triggers and symptoms means keeping a log or journal of some kind. While that certainly works, it makes it challenging to pinpoint trends or changes in the information. Since those trends may show how a treatment is or isn’t working, spotting them is crucial.
Several migraine apps have popped up over the last few years, like Migraine Buddy, N1-Headache, and Headache Log. These apps allow data to be entered and then displayed through various reports for your doctor. Several of these apps also allow for monitoring of medication and non-migraine days.
Tracking helps you create a fuller picture of exactly how your migraines impact your life. In addition to ease in tracking, many of these apps also provide additional support like treatment identification.
Cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) treatments are used to help with pain management, so it’s not surprising they are being researched to help with migraines. While it’s still early to make definitive conclusions, some studies suggest that CBD may help relieve migraine symptoms. Others are finding promising results with THC or combinations of CBD and THC.
Currently this research is limited, in part due to regulations placed on CBD and THC. As regulations on CBD and THC change, more studies will likely be done.
Early indications of the compounds’ efficacy are promising, with few side effects. That is a potentially huge development in migraine treatment. Look for research in this area to expand in the next few years.
Migraine research and treatment have made great leaps forward. These advancements have led to better diagnoses and increased access to life-changing treatment. The next time you talk to your doctor about your migraines, consider bringing up some of these trends. You may just find a new treatment that works for you.