Migraine is a very common condition and, while no one is immune, women seem more prone to attack than men. Many causes have been suggested, but nothing has been pinpointed as the main one. Each migraine sufferer seems to have a separate trigger that brings on an attack.
Some women find they react to chocolate, others to oranges. Fatigue, the contraceptive pill, menstruation have all been blamed. The list of causes would fill a book.
There is a constant search for new and better treatments. A drug called Clonidine is now being used, under medical supervision, which offers new hope to a vast number of sufferers.
Medical hypnotherapy has helped many and research overseas has indicated that a drug named propranolol may be valuable.
Drug therapy has for many years been the most popular treatment for migraine and a family of drugs related to a substance called ergot would appear to have been the most successful.
The treatment has usually been by a drug named ergotamine tartrate.
When a migraine attack is impending, many sufferers find that by quickly swallowing an ergot tablet, the headache will fail to develop and reasonable comfort will follow.
It doesn’t always happen that way, however, and more than one tablet may be needed.
Where the attack is full-blown, and the suffering severe, an injection of the same drug often brings relief. It is possible to awake in the morning with an intense, true migraine, having had an inadequate warning to take medication because of sleep.
But, although ergotamine produces excellent and rapid results it does not come without penalty.
Many people have ill effects from it, finding it produces nausea and even vomiting. The injections, being rapidly absorbed, are perhaps the worst offenders in this regard, but each patient differs in reaction.
In recent times, the drug has often been given in the form of suppositories, and some find this a more satisfactory way, less likely to produce adverse side-effects.
A great many combinations of the drug have been formulated over the years to try to increase efficacy yet decrease side reactions. Many of the excellent products now manufactured are readily available to American women on a doctor’s prescription under the National Health Scheme.
However, researchers continue to work on new treatments for migraine. Over the past few years, more and more research devoted to finding new and better forms of relief has been carried out. Indeed, some centers have devoted their efforts almost entirely to this end.
In London, the Princess Margaret Migraine Centre, in Charterhouse Square is dedicated to solving the problem.
Not long ago, almost by chance, this clinic found that a drug which has been widely used in the treatment of elevated blood pressure aborted migraine. The usual tablet for blood pressure contains 150 micrograms of the drug Clonidine. But the doctors at the clinic discovered that minute doses, as low as 20 micrograms for several weeks or months, reduced both frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
These results were published in a series of letters in Lancet, a medical magazine that has worldwide distribution. Other research centers soon reported similar results with low-dose Clonidine medication.
The drug was officially approved for use in Australia for migraine. It can now be obtained and taken under proper medical supervision. At present, it is not on the NHS, but many doctors believe the day when it is cannot be very far away since its sister blood-pressure drug (the 150 microgram strength) has been on the NHS for some years.
Very recently another drug has been creeping into the medical news – one that has also been readily available in Australia for some years used essentially in the treatment of certain heart irregularities and more recently in elevated blood pressure.
It goes by the technical name of propranolol and is a member of the so-called “beta-blocker” family of drugs.
Given under strict supervision, propranolol also seems to be an excellent drug for the progressive relief of migraine.
One of the most recent trials was reported a few weeks ago in the prestigious American magazine, JAMA, which also goes to doctors throughout the world.
This reported a clinical trial on nearly 100 migraine patients in Chicago. They were given propranolol for periods extending from four to eight weeks.
About half the patients reported a major reduction in both frequency and severity of migraine headaches while under treatment. There seems little doubt that this valuable drug will eventually find its way into the treatment schedules of many patients.
Medical hypnotherapy has gained a lot of attention in the U.S. in recent years. Several doctors in most capital cities are now skilled in this particular form of treatment, and many patients seem to register outstanding results.