Migraine Headaches by Barbara Ebel, M.D.


A headache’s just a headache.  Right?

It would be nice if that were true.

There are many clinical varieties of headache!  Because you can have a headache due to a medical disorder, an intracranial aneurysm or even a brain tumor, it’s wise to see a doctor if you’re concerned about a change in your history of headaches. Actually, a headache that is severe or sudden or associated with neck pain or other unusual symptoms warrants a visit to the E.R.

Today’s topic is migraine headaches. In 1993, the CDC’s data reported a U.S. prevalence of 13%.  Sifting through an older internal medicine textbook and tracing other CDC information, it looks like the prevalence escalated from around 1980, making it more common now than cases of asthma and diabetes combined! Women also experience them more than men.

If you are one of the lucky ones who don’t get these headaches, you’ve heard about them from friends, relatives or in the workplace. They really can live up to their reputation to send a person straight to bed.

The characteristics of these headaches are a throbbing and/or a dull ache which can be one sided or bilateral; worse behind one eye or ear. You can wake up with one or it can start later in the day. Less commonly, an aura may occur before the headache; perhaps a visual disturbance such as a flash of light. To make life more miserable, they can last up to one or two days! Sufferers can’t rely on a pattern – they strike at irregular intervals, weeks or even months apart. Another nasty symptom of migraines is nausea which can lead to vomiting. Pretty miserable!

Clinical investigators believe that attacks have to do with a neurovascular disorder, chemical imbalances, and even the environment, but the complete theory of its mechanism and cause is still debated. There are factors known to   provoke migraines: bright light, noise, tension, alcohol (particularly red wine), oral contraceptives and unusual odors. Personally, I can count on a significant change in barometric pressure or relative dehydration to trigger a migraine.


If you know for sure, or have been diagnosed with migraines, you are well aware of treatments. Standard fare are over the counter pain relievers, albeit with side effects (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Luckily, migraines aren’t constant which alleviates using these medications all the time. Specific over the counter drugs such as Excedrin Migraine contain acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine and can be effective if taken early on. There are triptans and ergots (available in nasal spray and injectable forms) and prescription medications. Your doctor can be an asset when it comes to formulating your individual treatment plan or even recommending preventative medications.


So, if your work colleague on Monday morning reports they just spent the weekend in bed with a migraine, give them a pat on the shoulder and tell them you hope they’re feeling better!

 I hope you enjoyed my bi-monthly health blog. Feel free to leave comments below after the recipe and sign up on the right sidebar for new posts to my blog.

For more health pearls, check out my book “Younger Next Decade” on my website.  Also, my new, much anticipated second Dr. Danny Tilson novel, Silent Fear: a Medical Mystery, comes out on March 12th. Check out the super pre-publication reviews, etc. also on website. The book will launch into a Book Tour on March 17th.  What fun!



Here’s an appropriate recipe for March because of St. Patrick’s Day:

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients together. Rub in butter with fingers. Make a well in center and add enough buttermilk to make a soft but firm dough. Knead on a floured surface for 2 to 3 minutes until dough is smooth. Form into a round loaf. Cut a deep cross in the center of the loaf.  Put into a cake tin that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.



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