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Help for chronic migraines

Doctors for USA WEEKEND

The intense throbbing pain of an occasional migraine is bad — especially when accompanied by nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or sensitivity to light and sound. Imagine getting one of those doozy headaches most days: That’s the reality of chronic migraines.

A recent survey of 2,600 migraine sufferers found more than 40% have the chronic kind. The same survey reported 38% of people with chronic migraines lost a job because of their condition. Chronic sufferers are stigmatized in the same way people with epilepsy are, reports a new study in the journal PLOS ONE. When migraines are chronic, they strike at least 15 days a month for at least three months; on at least eight of those days, patients have symptoms or respond to migraine-specific treatment.

A few tips for managing migraines:

Go easy on coffee. High caffeine consumption could trigger an occasional migraine; it also increases your chances of developing chronic headaches, especially in women and those under 40, research suggests. Obesity also is a risk factor for chronic migraines.

Prescription drugs can help. Onabotulinumtoxin A (trade name Botox) is FDA-approved for chronic migraines. A recent research review in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that chronic sufferers who used the injections averaged two to three fewer headaches a month; patients with occasional migraines or chronic tension headaches had no change. Other prescriptions for chronic migraines: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), pain medication and migraine-specific drugs. Doctors also may suggest antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs.

Acupuncture is worth a try. Studies show that this ancient technique can help reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic headaches, maybe as much or more so than medication.

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