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Dr. Frasat Chaudhry, St. Luke's Hospital



Ringing in the new year migraine-free

Avoiding a migraine headache during the holidays is challenging for migraine sufferers. Plenty of migraine triggers abound including stress, lack of sleep and other lifestyle disruptions. And don't forget the red wine, cheese and preservative-laden food which are plentiful at New Year's parties. But, with a little effort, it is possible to ring in 2011 migraine-free.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Migraine sufferers experience severe headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine is also often associated with blurred vision and tunnel vision as well as numbness and tingling. The pain can be on one or both sides of the head and is typically described by sufferers as a constant throbbing discomfort. More than half of migraine sufferers have a "prodrome," or a period before a migraine which signals the onset of an attack. This can include a depressed mood, irritability and sleepiness.

The best treatment for migraine is prevention. Once diagnosed, migraine sufferers need to pay careful attention to what triggers their migraine attacks. In addition to the lifestyle and food/beverage-related triggers mentioned previously, common triggers include hormonal changes, odors, neck pain, bright light and cigarette smoke. If any of these are triggers for you, it's best to avoid the ones you can while you are celebrating this weekend. Regular exercise and following a well-balanced diet can also help you prevent migraines.

When prevention isn't possible, a wide variety of medications are available to help reduce the number of your attacks, to stop migraines as soon as they start and to treat the pain. For those who don't respond to traditional therapy, there are alternative pain management techniques available.

If you think you suffer from migraines, it's important to see your primary care physician or a neurologist to make sure no other health issues are contributing to your headaches. Then, you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan that works specifically for you.

Dr. Frasat Chaudhry is a board-certified neurologist at the Brain and Spine Center at
St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-878-2888 or visit her Meet the Doctor page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 30, 2010.