igraines affect ;; million Americans,
and about ; out of ; people who
have the condition are women. The
World Health Organization says
that ;;; million to ;;; million people world-
wide experience chronic migraine, defined as
;; or more episodes per month over at least
More than a headache, migraines are an
inherited neurological disorder that affects how
the brain processes pain, light, sound and smell.
Attacks can last from hours to days, and for
some they are continuous. Symptoms can
include visual changes, dizziness or vertigo,
numbness, weakness or difficulty speaking.
“I tell patients they have a gene that gives
them an overly sensitive brain,” says Dr.
Lawrence Newman, director of the headache
division at New York University Langone
Medical Center. “People with migraines don’t
do well with change, whether it’s a change in
sleep, weather or hormones.”
Hormonal changes cause women to have
more migraines than men, says Dr. Roderick
Spears, a neurologist at Penn Medicine in
Philadelphia. “Boys outpace girls with
migraines until menstruation, when girls
begin to have hormonal fluctuations,” he says.
“About two-thirds of women with migraines
will get some type of migraine around ovula-
tion or menstruation.”
Among the medications used for migraines
are topiramate, antidepressants, blood pres-
sure medications and Botox injections.
But the most excitement in the migraine
world concerns Aimovig, the first drug
approved by the Food and Drug Administration
to prevent migraine headaches in adults.
Aimovig is the first in a new class of drugs that
blocks the activity of calcitonin gene-related
peptide, a molecule that spikes during migraine
attacks. Doctors hope the treatment, delivered
via monthly self-injections, can break the
cycle of increasing inflammation and heightened pain sensitivity that contributes to
“This approach offers new hope for people
whose migraines cannot be treated with existing medicine,” says Dr. Stephen D. Silberstein,
director of the Jefferson Headache Center at
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in
Philadelphia and lead author of the study.
Ilene Raymond Rush is a health and science writer.
Migraines a;ect how the
brain processes pain,
light, sound and smell
BY ILENE RAYMOND RUSH
and other vitamins and
supplements, as well
pain relievers, are
available at Costco
and on Costco.com.
Prescriptions can be
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Watch a video to
learn more about
migraines (See page
13 for details.)