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Understanding How Migraine Medications Work

A migraine headache can cause throbbing, pulsating pain that’s often accompanied by nausea, extreme sensitivity to light, and a host of other debilitating symptoms that may last for hours or several days.

Many of the 37 million men and women diagnosed with migraine disorder in the United States expect to have two to four migraines per month. A few sufferers experience one or two migraines a year. Millions, however, have migraine symptoms 15 or more days every month.

Dr. Lori Schneider is a board-certified neurologist and migraine specialist who manages her own practice, Lakeside Neurology, in Cornelius, North Carolina.

Dr. Schneider’s patients value her extensive medical expertise. They also greatly appreciate her personalized approach to patient care that integrates the best of traditional, alternative, and newly approved, medically sound therapies available for neurological disorders like migraine.

Read what this talented expert has to say about the newest migraine medications and how they work against these relatively common but often frustratingly difficult to treat headaches.

Why are migraines so difficult to treat?

Migraines are often difficult to treat because there is no single therapy currently available for these debilitating headaches. Rather, the most effective solutions involve a combination of treatments that focus on relieving pain, managing accompanying symptoms, and preventing or decreasing the severity of future episodes.

Also, because individual responses vary greatly, there’s often a period of trial and error before your headache specialist settles on the most effective treatment combination. Fortunately, more successful migraine therapies become available as our understanding of migraine disorder increases.

What makes the new migraine medications different from earlier treatments?

Prescription medications previously available to treat migraines were initially created to control seizures, depression, hypertension, and heart arrhythmias. These drugs were also found to provide relief for migraines and so became an “off label” treatment option that offered varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, they often include problematic side effects, such as dizziness, weight gain, and decreased mental clarity.

The newest medications, approved for use by the FDA in 2018, are specifically formulated to tackle the neurological effects of migraine by blocking calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) activity. 

This naturally occurring protein is believed to cause both chronic and episodic migraines, with  or without aura. It’s also been found to increase headache pain and is potentially linked to the visual disturbances and other symptoms common to migraine disorder.

CGRP inhibitors that Dr. Schneider may include in your migraine treatment plan include:

Prophylactic (preventive) agents

These medicines are delivered via injection, and depending on your symptoms, you may need them once or twice per month or once every three months.  

Abortive agents

These oral medications are designed to relieve the symptoms of a migraine in progress.

Am I a candidate for CGRP migraine treatment?

Dr. Schneider is well-known for her comprehensive treatment approach to migraines. Her evaluation includes a thorough examination and detailed discussion of your symptoms as well as possible migraine triggers such as stress, overindulgence in caffeine, poor sleep habits, etc.

She then creates your individualized treatment strategy according to the severity, frequency, and overall impact of migraines on your life. Your plan may include natural supplements, dietary changes, and alternative therapies like acupuncture. For patients who require more effective control of their headaches, she may also recommend CGRP migraine treatment for prevention and/or abortive care.  

For highly effective migraine treatment that’s designed to your needs, schedule a visit with Dr. Schneider at Lakeside Neurology today.

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