Ask a Nurse - Migraine Headaches

by Cathy Parkes November 21, 2022 Updated: December 21, 2022 3 min read

In this episode of Ask A Nurse, Registered Nurse Cathy Parkes BSN, RN, CWCN, PHN answers your questions about migraine headaches, such as, “What is a migraine headache?” “What can trigger a migraine headache?” and, “How can I treat a migraine headache?”

Cathy shares common symptoms of migraine headaches, along with risk factors that make an individual more likely to experience migraines. She discusses common triggers, which can often be avoided to prevent migraines.

Finally, Cathy describes medications used to treat mild and severe migraine headaches, as well as lifestyle interventions that can help prevent migraine headaches.

Full Transcript

Hi. I'm Cathy with Level Up RN. In this episode of Ask a Nurse, I'll be answering your questions about migraine headaches, such as, "what is a migraine headache?" "what can trigger a migraine?" and, "how can I treat my migraine headache?"

A migraine headache is a neurovascular disorder that causes throbbing head pain, typically, on one side of the head. And this pain can persist for several hours, up to several days.

Other signs and symptoms of a migraine include nausea, as well as possible vomiting, and something called photophobia, which is a sensitivity to bright lights.

Some people who get migraines have an aura before the onset of pain. So an aura is a visual or sensory disturbance, such as flashing lights.

Women are more likely to get a migraine than men, and those with a family history of migraines are also going to be at higher risk for getting them. Things that can trigger a migraine headache include stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, menstrual cycles, bright flashing lights, as well as certain foods, for example, foods that contain MSG, nitrites, or tyramine.

If you are prone to getting migraines, then you can take steps to reduce or eliminate some of these triggers, such as getting enough sleep or avoiding foods that trigger a migraine for you.

For a mild migraine, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, which is Tylenol, or ibuprofen can be used. In addition, caffeine is really helpful for a mild migraine. There are some over-the-counter products that combine pain relievers and caffeine, or you can try a cup of coffee and some Tylenol to try to address your mild migraine.

However, for more serious migraine headaches, a prescription medication may be necessary. Common prescription medications for migraines include ergotamine, as well as sumatriptan. However, there are many new medications on the market as well. You'll need to see your doctor to get a prescription for one of these medications.

In addition, if you have nausea or vomiting associated with your migraines, an anti-nausea medication can be prescribed as well. If you have very frequent migraine headaches or migraines that are unresponsive to treatment, then you may be prescribed a preventative medication. Examples of preventative medications that are helpful with migraines include beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, which are typically used for high blood pressure.

In addition, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can help prevent migraines. And then some people even get Botox in order to prevent migraine headaches. Of course, you're going to want to talk to your doctor about any of these options before taking a medication because they do have side effects, and they are contraindicated for certain conditions, such as during pregnancy.

When you have a migraine, resting in a dark, quiet environment can be helpful.

Ongoing, making lifestyle modifications to prevent migraines can also be helpful, such as making sure you're getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and reducing your stress levels.

Okay. I hope this episode of Ask a Nurse has been helpful. If so, be sure to hit that like button and subscribe to our channel. If you have any other questions or health concerns that you would like me to address in a future episode of Ask a Nurse, definitely leave those in the comments. Take care, stay informed, and stay well.


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