The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1055: What Are the Best Treatments for Headaches?

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Tension headaches, cluster headaches and migraines all call for different approaches to prevention and treatment. What should you know?
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Do you know how to treat a headache, beyond taking aspirin or acetaminophen? Can you get into trouble by taking your medication too frequently? (The answer is yes; this can make headaches worse.)

Cluster Headaches:

Cluster headaches recur with such extreme pain that they are sometimes termed "suicide headaches." There are effective treatments, including oxygen, but first the patient must get the proper diagnosis. Some people benefit from taking a daily medication to prevent this type of pain.

Migraine Headaches:

Migraines are triggered by odors, changes in weather, stress, certain foods and alterations in the menstrual cycle. They occur primarily in people who have a genetic susceptibility to migraine. Once a migraine starts, the blood vessels in the brain become leaky and inflammation sets in. The resulting pain may last between 4 and 72 hours. It may be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light or sound.

People susceptible to migraines often benefit by keeping a diary so they can figure out their own triggers and avoid them. Supplements such as magnesium and Coenzyme Q10 may be helpful for prevention.

Sex Headaches:

Sometimes excruciating head pain strikes at just the wrong time. How should such sex headaches be evaluated? What is the most effective treatment?

Learn about the latest drugs and nondrug approaches to managing recurrent head pain and migraines.

This Week's Guest:

Jennifer S. Kriegler, MD, is director of the Headache Medicine Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic. She is part of the Center for Neurological Restoration and the Headache Section of the Neurological Institute in the Department of Neurology of the Cleveland Clinic.
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