April 24, 2017
Anyone who suffers from migraines knows they aren’t just bad headaches. Migraines can have symptoms that include severe throbbing pain on one side of the head, flashes of light, blind spots and even tingling on one side of the face. These symptoms can last for hours, and they’re the results of a little-understood neurological disease.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, and nearly a quarter of U.S. households include someone who experiences migraines. However, recent advances in drug and migraine research have resulted in new, long-acting treatments that may reduce the pain and frequency of migraines.
Until recently, the most common treatment for a migraine was to lie quietly in a darkened room and wait for the pain to pass. Sufferers attempted to relieve their pain with medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. They used other medications called triptans and ergotamines to modify the circulatory system and relieve symptoms as they occurred.
Some prescription medications used to prevent migraines actually appeared on the market for other purposes, including reducing blood pressure, preventing seizures and managing depression, but they’ve proven effective in reducing migraines. Botox, another drug developed for other purposes, recently received approval as a preventative for people who have 15 or more migraine attacks per month.
Three New Promising Treatments
In the past few months, a spate of promising new approaches aimed specifically at reducing pain and even reducing frequency of migraines have emerged.
In a study led by Dr. Amaal Starling and his team of neurologists at the Mayo Clinic, researchers found that single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS) is an effective way to prevent migraine attacks.
Published in the March 2018 journal Cephalalgia, the study involved 349 people who received treatments twice daily with the device. These subjects showed a reduced frequency of headache days by about three per month, while nearly half (46 percent) had at least 50 percent fewer attacks per month. The authors concluded that the sTMS device not only helps stop a migraine attack, but also helps prevent them. The device has received FDA approval for patients suffering from migraine.
In a study presented in April at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), researchers showed the drug erenumab (Aimovig®) to be an effective and safe option for migraine treatment. Erenumab works by blocking a neurotransmitting chemical from binding to the nerves that send out migraine pain signals. It’s the first of a new class of drugs that target a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).
The study showed that after three months, people treated with erenumab were three times more likely to cut their migraine days in half than those treated with a placebo. The drug is currently under review by the FDA.
In another study presented at the AAN meeting, researchers showed that approximately 50 percent of patients receiving another anti-CGRP drug, eptinezumab, intravenously every three months, achieved a 50 percent or greater reduction in monthly migraine days over the 12 weeks of the study. The study participants had 14 or fewer headache days per month, with more than four of those meeting the criteria for migraines.
It’s important to note that studies presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary, but the promises of these drugs offer new hope for many migraine sufferers.
At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we specialize in finding the optimal treatment for you. Our headache specialists work with you to help you find the optimal treatment for your chronic headache pain. Call our appointment line at (972) 258-7499, or contact us by email.