Your #1 Advice For Someone Newly Diagnosed…

It might be surprising what the #1 piece of advice was – from website visitors to those who have been newly diagnosed with migraine, cluster, or another headache disorder. There are so many things that could be said.

Remember, this is from people who have been down the road, some have had a headache disorder for many, many years. They’ve made mistakes, and they’ve had success.

Headache Advice -Wondering?So what was the most common bit of advice? Keep a detailed migraine/headache diary.

They mentioned tracking things like what you eat, what the weather is like, your monthly cycle, your ups and downs. The more detail the better.

Why? One reason is that many people have drastically cut down on their symptoms by identifying triggers. That is, they find that certain foods, or weather conditions, or hairsprays, or whatever it may be, tend to bring on symptoms or make them worse.

Sometimes we’re surprised when we actually keep track and find out what those triggers actually are.

But of course a headache diary is about more than just triggers – it’s also about finding an objective way to evaluate treatments, and find overall balance.

That’s just one of the bits of advice that people gave for our latest community article. Check out the top 10 right here.

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Are You Experiencing Airplane Headache?

Yes, airplane headache is a thing. A few years ago some researchers started noticing a common pattern – a headache which struck during flight, especially during the landing phase. And it’s much more common than you may think.

Airplane HeadacheNow, we all know that the changes in pressure can cause headaches. Some people will get migraine attacks during and after flights, or other types of headaches.

But the airplane headache is something a little bit unique. It seems to strike mostly men, lasts no more than 30 minutes, and, like a headache from migraine, is one sided.

There are not usually other symptoms (as is the case with migraine triggered during travel).

The airplane headache turned out to be so common that the authors of one airplane headache study suggested we may want to see it as an official headache classification.

These headaches may mostly be caused by a type of sinus barotrauma (also known as sinus squeeze). Barotrauma occurs due to a blockage in the sinuses, where the sinus is connected to the nasal cavity.

The age-old solution of chewing gum or swallowing will not work for this type of barotrauma. Those work well enough with your Eustachian tubes, allowing pressure equalization in the ear. But it won’t help with sinus barotrauma.

Sometimes the blockage is severe enough that surgery will be required. However, in most cases some medication will be a help..

The airplane headache may be better or worse from flight to flight. This could partly have to do with the level of blockage, which could vary due to allergies and infections.

Taking something for the pain is appropriate, but there are ways to minimize and prevent the pain in the first place. Topical decongestants (nasal spray) (such as those with oxymetazoline or phenylephrine) may help clear things up. Talk to your doctor especially if the pain lasts beyond 30 minutes, or is severe.

For more information:

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Early Pregnancy Headaches

Are early pregnancy headaches normal, or are they a sign of something more serious? With all the changes going on during pregnancy, it’s difficult to know what to focus on. But you don’t want to miss warning signs that could indicate more problems down the road.

Early Pregnancy Headaches?Headache and/or migraine attacks during early pregnancy is common, but not “normal”. In other words, you should be concerned, and you should investigate.

Types of Early Pregnancy Headaches

A study published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist estimated that 90% of headaches during pregnancy are either tension-type headache or migraine. If you suffered from migraine attacks before you became pregnant, your attacks may get worse during the first trimester. If this is true for you, statistically things should get better during the second and third trimester, and may even continue to be better after your baby is born (especially if you breastfeed). (Here’s a quick overview of statistics for early pregnancy headaches and their progression)

So about 90% of headaches may come from a common source (migraine and/or tension type headache), but that means that 1 in 10 are from a less common source. That alone should be a good reason to see your doctor. Sometimes blood clots (cerebral venous thrombosis), for example, may lead to headache, and there may be no other symptoms. Various neurological conditions can be very serious (even fatal) during pregnancy, and many conditions do include headache.

However, even the more “common” type headaches can be serious concerns during early pregnancy. And in spite of what you may have been told, there are good treatments available.

The treatment your doctor will prescribe for early pregnancy headaches will depend on your symptoms, including the severity of the headache. If you’re in emergency due to a headache, common treatments to “break the cycle” may include acetaminophen / paracetamol or intravenous magnesium. Some specialists are trying intravenous metoclopramide and diphenhydramine as well.

For less severe headaches, there are a large range of treatments available to the pregnant woman. However, you are always wise to talk to a doctor who knows your medical history before going ahead with your own treatment – and this includes over the counter “painkillers” (which sometimes can make things worse) and supplements.

Although caution is advised during early pregnancy, there are drug options. Your doctor will discuss the safety of these with you, and you can decide what to try and when.

There are many complimentary treatments which have been very effective (in some cases more effective than drugs). For example, magnesium, biofeedback, feverfew, massage, and devices such as SootheAway.

When No One Will Listen

If your doctor continually brushes you off and suggests that they’re “only headaches”, seriously consider finding a new doctor. It’s true that you may be able to take some simple medication and find relief. But if the symptoms continue, and interfere with your life, they need to be taken seriously.

The good news is that there are treatments available, and that things should get better if you pay attention to what your body is telling you. But that is critical – don’t ignore headaches during the first trimester. Dealing with them early on will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

Be concerned, but don’t panic. If you’re having trouble finding good help, leave a comment for our community.

For more information, read The Myth-Busting Guide to Migraines and Pregnancy

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Oxidative Stress and Migraine

What if we knew exactly what “switches on” a migraine attack? Would there be a way to disconnect the switch, and bring relief?

That’s what Dr. Jonathan M. Borkum from the University of Maine is hoping for, after completing new research on migraine triggers.

Dr. Borkum found that in almost all cases, migraine triggers do have a common theme – they are all capable of generating oxidative stress.

So if we could take a pill – maybe even something like a vitamin – and take care of this oxidative stress – would that stop migraine attacks from being “switched on”?

Oxidative Stress – What is it?

Oxidative stress refers to damage done to the body by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms or groups of atoms. They contain unpaired electrons – that is, an odd number of electrons (hence not all have “mates”). Free radicals are a normal by product of functions of your body.

Free radicals can cause damage when they come into contact with parts of the cell, like cell membranes or DNA. The collective damage is known as oxidative stress.

“Processing” Free Radicals

Your body has a normal way of processing free radicals, using antioxidants. It’s important to eat well to make sure your body has an adequate supply of antioxidants, which will then stop the chain reaction of free radicals and prevent or slow oxidative stress.

Are Antioxidants The Answer?

So with antioxidants all the rage in every health food store, we should be able to find a solution, right?

It’s true that study of antioxidants has been important over the past few years. Diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma are closely related to oxidative stress. We also have known about the connection between migraine and oxidative stress for quite a while (see, for example, Massive Genetic Study Zeros in on Migraine).

But oxidative stress and what exactly causes it are much more complex than it may at first appear.

We do know that eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is a help – but is this because of antioxidants, or some other function?

We all want to narrow down the solution to a pill – vitamin C or E, beta-carotene, lutein … but the research on these has not been consistent. If we fall back on what we know for sure, it’s always the same. Some supplements may help, but by far the best choice is a healthy diet.

In some cases, the supplements themselves may cause health problems, without solving the problem they were intended to treat. Taking supplements is a balancing act – too much of one may mean a lowering of another.

So What Does This Research Tell Us?

There is a lot of research to be done, and we know that the whole category of oxidative stress is extremely complex. However, this study does further confirm things we already knew. There is a relation between migraine and oxidative stress.

A generally healthy diet continues to be one of the most powerful migraine treatments. Vitamins C and E, taken under the care of your doctor, may be helpful in decreasing pain conditions (see http://headacheandmigrainenews.com/menstrual-migraine-back-to-vitamin-e/. Also, magnesium seems to be an key part of the antioxidant system, and is one of the most important preventative migraine treatments today.

So we’ll wait for more research to be done, while we munch on our blueberries and kale chips.

For more information:

  • Study abstract: Migraine Triggers and Oxidative Stress: A Narrative Review and Synthesis
  • What is Oxidative Stress?
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    Is Your “Targeted” Migraine Painkiller Worth the $$$?

    If you had a choice between a package 200mg ibuprofen tablets (generic), and a product known as Fast Acting Migraine Formula, which would you choose? Hey, if the package was professional and the claims were reasonable, many of us wouldn’t mind paying a little more for the targeted migraine medication, right?

    Recently Reckitt Benckiser, a company based in England, raised eyebrows in Australia when it was discovered that a whole line of specialized painkillers were – the same thing.

    Nurofen PainkillersThis was the Nurofen line, including Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain, Nurofen Tension Headache – all products that appeared to be specially formulated for a specific thing.

    The active ingredient? Ibuprofen – 200mg – the same in every product.

    But – don’t people look for something specifically for headache? Dr. Aomesh Bhatt, regulatory and medical affairs director for Nurofen, defended the marketing in that way. “Consumer research indicates that 9 in 10 people (88%) look for pain relief for a specific type of pain (eg headache, migraine, back pain) and 7 in 10 (71%) say pain-specific packs help them decide which product is best for their needs.” (see Nurofen maker Reckitt Benckiser defends Australia packaging)

    We all want people to be able to find the medication they need. But did everyone realize that they were not really getting something specifically targeting for migraine pain?

    To make the question more interesting, here’s another interesting fact. Not all these products were the same price. For example, ASDA Migraine Relief was half the price of Superdrug Migraine Relief – even though they both contained the equivalent of 200mg of ibuprofen.

    The court in Australia was not amused, asking Nurofen to remove the products from the shelves. No changes were immediately planned for other countries.

    All that to say, be cautious about what you’re spending extra money on. Just because it says “Migraine” on the box, doesn’t mean it’s any more special than the cheaper box next to it. Read the label and do your research, and save your money.

    Read more: Painkiller rip-off: Pills for migraine, period pain, backache ‘are identical’

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