About Migraine Headaches
The pain of a migraine headache is often described as an
intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. It
is often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound,
nausea, and vomiting. Migraine is three times more common in
women than in men.
Some individuals can predict the onset of a migraine because
it is preceded by an "aura," visual disturbances that appear as
flashing lights, zig-zag lines or a temporary loss of vision.
People with migraine tend to have recurring attacks triggered
by a lack of food or sleep, exposure to light, or hormonal
irregularities (only in women).
Anxiety, stress, or relaxation after stress can also be
triggers. For many years, scientists believed that migraines
were linked to the dilation and constriction of blood vessels
in the head. Investigators now believe that migraine is caused
by inherited abnormalities in genes that control the activities
of certain cell populations in the brain.
There are two ways to approach the treatment of migraine
headache with drugs: prevent the attacks, or relieve the
symptoms during the attacks.
Many people with migraine use both approaches by taking
medications originally developed for epilepsy and depression to
prevent future attacks, and treating attacks when they happen
with drugs called triptans that relieve pain and restore
Hormone therapy may help some women whose migraines seem to
be linked to their menstrual cycle. Stress management
strategies, such as exercise, relaxation, biofeedback, and
other therapies designed to help limit discomfort, may also
reduce the occurrence and severity of migraine attacks.
Taking a combination of drugs to prevent and treat migraine
attacks when they happen helps most people with migraine to
limit the disabling effects of these headaches. Women whose
migraine attacks occur in association with their menstrual
cycle are likely to have fewer attacks and milder symptoms
One group of researchers treated 49 migraine patients with
large amounts of vitamin B2 (400 mg per day). Both the
frequency and severity of migraines decreased by more than
In a follow-up three-month, double-blind trial, the same
researchers reported that 59% of patients assigned to receive
vitamin B2 had at least a 50% reduction in the number of
headache days, whereas only 15% of those assigned to receive a
placebo experienced that degree of improvement. The effects of
vitamin B2 were most pronounced during the final month of the
Reference for Migraine Headaches
Schoenen J, Lenaerts M, Bastings E. High-dose
riboflavin as a prophylactic treatment of migraine: results of
an open pilot study. Cephalalgia 1994;14:328–9.
Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts M.
Effectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis.
A randomized controlled trial. Neurology
Schoenen J, Jacquy, Lenaerts M. High-dose
riboflavin as a novel prophylactic antimigraine therapy:
results from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled
trial. Cephalalgia 1997;17:244.
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