Migraine Headache Clinical Research
Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, and more than 37 million Americans suffer from this debilitating condition. There are a number of migraine clinical research trials currently being conducted here at Avail and at countless other clinical research sites across the globe.
Almost 1 in 4 American households includes someone who suffers from migraine, and it can affect men, women, and even children. However, it tends to affect these groups very unevenly. In the United States, the statistics are as follows:
- 18% of women experience migraines
- 10% of children experience migraines
- 6% of men experience migraines
Migraine attacks are most common between the ages of 25 and 55. Unfortunately these are also the prime years for migraines to have a negative impact on building a career or raising children!
A Misunderstood Mystery
Despite its commonness, migraine is a condition that’s widely misunderstood. Many who are fortunate enough to live without migraines still don’t understand the difference between a migraine and a run-of-the-mill headache. This can be frustrating for the 12% of Americans who struggle with migraine.
A migraine is far more than just a simple headache. Not only are the pain levels almost always worse, a migraine is often accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound, or smells.
Though we certainly don’t confuse them for headaches, researchers don’t yet know everything there is to know about migraines either. We know that genetics play a significant role. In fact, approximately 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine.
Environmental factors can also act as triggers for a migraine attack.
Past research has shown that migraines might be caused by interactions between the brainstem and a major pain pathway called the trigeminal nerve. In addition to this, serotonin levels, which are known to drop during a migraine, likely play a role.
When the migraine sufferer’s serotonin drops, it can cause his or her trigeminal nerve to release neuropeptides. These subsequently travel to the meninges, the brain’s outer covering, and causes migraine pain.
Other neurotransmitters such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) can also influence a person’s migraine.
Though we know some pieces of the migraine puzzle, we still have a long way to go. At our state-of-the-art facility in DeLand, researchers are working hard to uncover new ways of understanding, preventing, and treating this age-old problem.
Risk Factors for Migraine
Up to 25% of people experience at least one migraine over the course of their lives. To some degree anyone is at risk; however, there are numerous well-known factors that put a person at extra risk.
These include the following:
- Age – As mentioned earlier, migraines are most common between ages 25 and 55. They typically peak during a person’s 30s, and slowly decrease in frequency and severity over the following decades.
- Genetics – Migraines are often hereditary and tend to run in families.
- Sex – For children, more boys than girls experience migraines. After puberty and through adulthood, women become far more susceptible to migraine, with a female to male ratio of 3:1 amongst migraine sufferers.
Not only are women far more likely to experience migraines, but their risk is also more complicated due to certain hormonal changes. These include:
- Birth Control – Hormonal methods of birth control (such as the pill) can influence a woman’s migraines, either positively or negatively depending on the medicine and the individual.
- Menstruation – Women who experience migraines often find that their attacks begin either right before the beginning of a given menstrual period or right after it has started.
- Pregnancy – Like the pill, pregnancy can be a mixed bag when it comes to migraines. Many women report a break from their migraines during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the migraines tend to resurface during the postpartum phase. Other women report getting their first-ever migraines after they get pregnant, and some women who already suffered from migraines prior to pregnancy report them getting worse while pregnant.
- Menopause – Migraines usually improve after menopause.
A migraine’s accompanying symptoms can start hour before the headache itself, last throughout the migraine, and even remain after the pain fades. Migraines vary from person to person, and even very from attack to attack in the same individual.
That being said, some accompanying symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Feeling sick to one’s stomach or having a stomach ache
- Sensitivity to:
- Temperature changes
As for the migraine pain itself, it is usually:
- Confined to one side of the head (but can happen in both sides)
- Described by sufferers as:
- Intense enough to inhibit regular activities
- Known to increase if an individual is straining or attempting to be physically active
If you’re familiar with the symptoms of migraines and realize that we left one out, that’s because it warrants its own entire section! You guessed it, we are talking about the aura.
Migraines with Aura
Not all migraines are migraines with aura, but when they do go hand-in-hand, the aura is typically a precursor to the attack itself. People who experience migraines with aura tend to regard the aura as a warning sign. Though migraines are a painful experience, being able to seek out a dark room and/or pain medications beforehand is certainly a silver lining.
An aura is a perceptual disturbance. It can come in the form of any of the following:
- Confusing thoughts
- Blind spots or other visual disturbances such as:
- Blank patches
- Flashing or sparkling lights
- Zig zag lines
- Odd sensations in the limbs, for example:
- Pins and needles
- Trouble speaking
- Unpleasant smells
These examples should be taken seriously, especially if it’s your first time experiencing a new symptom or if your migraine is more severe than usual. When it comes to seeking medical help, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Not only can a migraine be preceded by an aura, it can be followed by a postdrome phase. Once the feelings of extreme pain have faded, some people feel elated. Others may experience something that feels like a 24-hour “migraine hangover” during which their body is exhausted from processing so much pain.
This postdrome phase can include:
- Emotional irritation
- Sensitivity to:
The postdrome phase can also cause a variety of accompanying thoughts and emotions. While some people feel happy and grateful that the migraine is over, the potential exhaustion can also feel like adding another unpleasant/stressful experience that can detract from work and productivity.
Migraines can be as unpredictable as they are painful, but thankfully there are some known triggers that migraine sufferers can keep in mind.
Some environmental/nutritional factors that can influence a migraine include:
- Alcoholic beverages, especially wine
- Bright lights
- Caffeinated drinks
- Fasting or skipping meals
- Foods such as:
- Aged cheeses
- Processed snacks
- Salty choices
- Food additives like:
- Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG
- Intense physical exertion, including sexual intercourse
- Loud sounds
- Sleep pattern changes
- Strong smells
- Sun glare
- Weather changes or barometric pressure changes
Though it’s impossible to avoid all of these things at all times, it can help to be cognisant of what food and drink choices may have a negative impact on your migraine attacks, and what environmental surroundings should be handled with caution.
It is also important to note that the hormonal changes in women listed under “Risk Factors” can be triggers too. Periods are an inevitable part of life for all women, and pregnancy is a wonderful part of life for many women, but sometimes things can be done about the other hormonal factors caused by the pill.
Sometimes women find that their migraines go away on the birth control pill, while for other women symptoms are amplified. Being aware of the effect birth control might have on her migraines can help a woman better monitor her symptoms and work with her doctor to find the best solution for her body.
Migraine Prevention and Treatment
Though there is no cure-all for migraines (yet!), there are a variety of options that can help prevent attacks and alleviate some of the pain when a migraine does occur.
Recommended Prevention Methods
The optimal scenario is to prevent a migraine before it even has the chance to start. These tips can help.
Good health is the best foundation for combating any illness or condition, and migraine is no exception. The following are some lifestyle habits that can help reduce migraine frequency:
- Avoiding trigger foods
- Exercising regularly
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing stress healthily
Living healthily helps, but sometimes it just doesn’t get the job fully done. This is why some migraine sufferers choose to take preventative medications. In the event that a person’s headaches are regular and/or tend to last for days on end, more significant preventative measures may be required.
Some opt to take a daily medication to help prevent migraine attacks. There are a variety of different options that have been shown to be effective as a daily prevention method, including:
- Anti-seizure medications
- Blood pressure medications
Supplements such as:
- Coenzyme Q10
Procedures and Alternative Options
Some migraine patients even opt for botulinum toxin A, more commonly known as Botox. It has been proven extremely effective in some cases, but is only recommended for people who experience over 15 headache days a month.
There are also other non-pill options such as:
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Spinal cord stimulator implantation
- Vision correction
- Visualization and self-hypnosis
Which of these options might be appropriate for a given patient depends on factors such as:
- Blood pressure
- Whether they have pre-existing conditions
Not only are there myriad forms of prevention, there are also many types of treatment in the event that you do suffer a migraine attack.
- Antiemetic medications
- Dihydroergotamine or DHE 45 (cannot be used if a triptan has been used in the past 24 hours)
- Ergots (typically only effective if administered at the start of a migraine)
- Over-the-counter painkillers
- Aspirin with caffeine and acetaminophen
- Prescription painkillers
- Triptans – Triptans, a class of drugs including the following:
- Naproxen and Sumatriptan combination
- Sumatriptan patch
It is important to keep in mind that not every patient can take triptans. There are also limitations regarding the frequency with which these medications can be taken.
Migraine sufferers should also be aware that overuse of headache medications can actually increase the frequency of headaches. This unfortunate phenomenon is known as “medication overuse headache.”
A Video Overview of Migraine Headaches
It can help to see information brought to life! Check out this YouTube video for a closer look at migraine headaches.
Did you know that research volunteers are needed for upcoming migraine clinical trials here in DeLand, FL?
If this is an opportunity that you are interested in, our skilled team of doctors and nurses are available to answer any of your questions and help get you enrolled in the best study. If you provide us with your name, email and phone number (using the short form on this page), one of our staff members will contact you.
Haven’t participated in a clinical trial before? We understand that you probably have a number of questions and we’re here to answer all of them. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our clinical study participation resource section. This has plenty of great information about what it’s like to be in a clinical trial here at our facility.
Qualified participants are eligible to receive compensation for their involvement in one of our Florida clinical trials. They’ll also gain access to premium healthcare and study-related medication free of charge.
If all of this appeals to you, but you suffer from a medical condition other than migraine, don’t worry! We offer a variety of clinical trials here at Avail. Plus, you don’t actually have to be living with a medical condition in order to qualify for a clinical trial; we are currently looking for healthy volunteers too. If you are interested in helping us advance modern medicine or in taking a more active role in your healthcare, please give us a call today at (386) 785-2400.