10 Highlights from the past 3 Months (May 2015 edition)

There have been some fascinating stories breaking over the past few months. Here’s your chance to catch up – the most popular stories first, and the ones with the most likes on Facebook are in bold.

  1. Do you really have “Migraine”?
  2. Have You Tried the Icekap for Migraine?
  3. A Migraine Trigger You Shouldn’t Ignore
  4. More Evidence that Green Veggies Fight Migraine
  5. Now You can Fight Weather related Migraine with the Migraine Barometer
  6. Should Migraine Patients Drink More Coffee? (and a note about aspartame)
  7. Headache? Instead of a pill, rub this on your skin…
  8. Migraine: Doubling the Risk of Stroke?
  9. Can this Procedure Teach Your Body to avoid Migraine?
  10. More Concerns About Narcotics in a Migraine Emergency

Headache and Watery Eyes

There are actually a number of disorders that may lead to headache and watery eyes. Although sinus infections are blamed more often than not, a chronic sinus infection (sinusitis) is actually a more unusual cause of watery eyes.

Headache and Watery Eyes?First, it’s commonly known that migraine attacks can lead to congestion and watery eyes. This from Johns Hopkins Medicine:

Migraine pain can be felt in the face, where it may be mistaken for sinus headache – or the neck, where it may be mistaken for arthritis or muscle spasm. Complicating a migraine the diagnosis of migraine is that the headaches may be accompanied by other “sinus-like” symptoms, including watering eyes, nasal congestion, and a sense of facial pressure. Most patients who think they have sinus headache in fact have migraines.

But watery eyes, also known as lacrimation (lachrymation) or epiphora can go along with headaches for a number of reasons.

Sometimes, something like the common cold can trigger both migraine attacks and watery eyes. It helps to make a note of when headache symptoms and lacrimation starts – do both always happen at the same time?

Migraine attacks may last for a few hours to two or three days. Other headache and watery eyes conditions may have different timetables.

Cluster headache attacks often lead to congestion and water eyes as well. These attacks are typically shorter than migraine attacks, lasting from a few minutes to two or three hours. The pain is severe, and attacks may come every day or even hit several times a day.

Paroxysmal hemicrania attacks may be even shorter, but also lead to headache and watery eyes. Attacks are treated with indomethacin.

There are other headaches that may last only a few seconds, but look similar. Hemicrania continua headaches may look similar to paroxysmal hemicrania, except that the headache doesn’t go away.

There also may be attacks of facial pain which lead to watery eyes.

This is by no means a complete list of what can cause headache and watery eyes. There are other issues, not as focused around headache, which can lead to lacrimation, such as hay fever and pink eye.

If your headache symptoms have changed, or you’re noticing new symptoms, it is wise to see a doctor as soon as possible. Tell your doctor when the symptoms began, if they symptoms affect both eyes or just one, and if/how headache and watery eyes go together (do they always strike at the same time? Do your eyes water as the headache goes away?). Your doctor should be able to help you narrow down the possible diagnosis and get you the treatment you need.


Headache? Instead of a pill, rub this on your skin…

Which would you prefer – taking a pill for headache pain, or rubbing something on your skin? It might be faster to swallow something, but why send something all the way to your stomach when the pain is in your head?

Of course, that’s a drastic over-simplification, but it does make a point. Often times, pills that are swallowed are not as “targeted” as we would like. Would it work better to apply something right where the pain is – on the head?

TOPOFEN for MigraineAchelios Therapeutics is working on that very thing with TOPOFEN, a gel that can be applied to the skin.

TOPOFEN is actually a formulation of ketoprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-infammatory drug (NSAID) which is sometimes used for hormonal related headache, as well as menstrual pain in general. It’s also used for other headaches, and pain from osteoarthritis.

At the 67th Annual Meeting for the American Academy of Neurology, a report was given on the latest trial of TOPOFEN for use in migraine treatment. 42 adults with migraine with aura and migraine without aura were given the gel. Each person was asked to take a pea-sized amount and rub it on the skin over the peripheral trigeminal nerve ends – that is, six points on the face, both sides (even if they headache pain was only on one side). 49 severe attacks were treated, 22 with TOPOFEN and 27 with a placebo.

77% of patients had some relief using TOPOFEN. After 4 hours, 23% were completely pain-free, and after 24 hours 50% were pain-free (double the success of those using the placebo).

At first these results may not seem too amazing. But remember, this is not a special migraine drug, this is a NSAID (ibuprofen or Advil is a NSAID as well, though a different type). Taking that into consideration, these are actually pretty good results. No pill was taken; all we’re talking about is a little gel rubbed on the skin.

Not only was their pain relief, patients also found relief from other symptoms, such as nausea and photophobia.

After 24 hours, the medication was still in the tissue – it was still working after 24 hours.

So what are the upsides and downsides to this kind of treatment?

The gel did cause temporary skin irritation in some people, usually moderate or mild. It could be there a small percentage of people would not be able to use this drug – but that’s common with any medication or treatment.

But a major downside of NSAIDs is avoided here – stomach problems. Applying the gel near where the actual pain is could be a much more direct way to calm migraine symptoms.

We still have a lot to learn about topical treatments for migraine, but so far TOPOFEN seems to be a great start – quickly absorbed and effective in the treatment of migraine pain and other symptoms.


Environmental/Food Triggers – Are they “real”? (podcast)

The water bottle, the grapes, the cologne – could they really be migraine or headache triggers? In this podcast we discuss environmental and food triggers, and a common misunderstanding that causes people to overlook them.

Some links mentioned in or related to this episode:


How a Game helped Her Recover (bonus video)

After a major concussion, Jane wanted to die. On her doctor’s advice, she was stripped of both work and free time enjoyment, and in their place experienced headaches, vertigo, and mental fog.

But Jane didn’t stop thinking, even when she could do little else. As a gamer, she began to re-imagine her circumstances – from a bottomless pit of hopelessness, to a challenging game that she could win.

The idea began to take shape. Sure, in many ways video games mirror life, and vice versa. But games of any kind allow us to take a step back, see things objectively, and perhaps most importantly, find hope and even fun in our challenges.

Every game needs a name. How about “Jane the Concussion Slayer”? Cheesy, but fun – and descriptive! Now she needed to identify the bad guys, find allies, and start levelling up, little by little.

SuperBetterHer twin sister became her ally. She began to identify things that could trigger symptoms, and find power-ups – small steps toward recovery.

The mental fog began to clear.

It was a long journey to recovery, but seeing things from a new perspective changed everything.

Yes, Jane McGonigal is a real person. In hopes that her methods might help others, she started to tweak the game and expand it for people with other injuries, chronic pain, depression. She looked closer at the research – what evidence is behind which small steps on the road to recovery? What does the science tell us? And so SuperBetter was born.

And yes, among the users of SuperBetter are migraine patients.

One of the benefits of programs like this is that they help you, in small ways, to put balance into your life as you take small steps forward. That is to say, your entire treatment is no longer focused on the next best drug. Instead, you’re looking at a fuller view of life (I won’t suggest any program really covers “all” of life – we’re too complex!). Mental, social, emotional, physical. But small steps.

As the medical community continues to recognize the importance of treating the whole person, they need to sit up and take notice of games like SuperBetter. Whether you’re convinced by Jane McGonigal or not, you should not quickly dismiss the idea that a well designed game could make a huge difference in your life.

For more information, check out the links below. And don’t miss the video, where Jane tells her own story – and gives you the opportunity to add precious time to your life – right now.