Severe Migraine

Symptoms and Treatment for Severe Migraine

Migraine is a common type of headache that causes recurring, disabling headaches. Women suffer from migraine three times more than men do. More than 12% of adults in the U.S. may suffer from migraine, and even children of elementary school age can be affected. Migraines are categorized as “migraine with aura” and “migraine without aura.” Approximately one-quarter of migraineurs, or migraine sufferers, experience an aura before the headache pain begins. An aura may involve visual, olfactory and sensory disturbances; numbness or tingling; dizziness or vertigo; and/or confusion. Some patients experience the aura without the headache.

Woman suffering from chronic migraine

When you visit the Diamond Headache Clinic for severe migraine relief, an experienced headache physician conducts a thorough examination. Determining the physiological, biological and environmental factors that contribute to the intensity and duration of your headache condition is necessary to pinpoint effective chronic migraine treatment. If you’re diagnosed with chronic or severe migraine, your doctor may recommend admission to our inpatient unit at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital for immediate treatment and stabilization. For more information about hospitalization treatment and preparation, click here.

What Are the Symptoms of Severe Migraine?

Chronic migraine usually begins as migraine without aura. The episodic nature may cease until the headache symptoms are present on more than 15 days per month for more than 3 months. When this happens, your condition is considered severe.

What Causes Migraine?

Migraine may be a hereditary disorder or a result of a brain injury. More than 80% of patients with migraine have a family member who also suffers from headache. Certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), inflammatory changes in the blood vessels or electrical activity in the brain may be involved in triggering migraine attacks. Migraine sufferers often experience sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and panic attacks as well.

Various triggers that have been associated with the occurrence of migraine on a specific day include:

  • Certain foods
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol
  • Strong smells
  • Changes in the weather
  • Lack of sleep
  • Schedule changes
  • Menstruation
  • Nighttime teeth grinding

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How Is Severe Migraine Diagnosed?

At the Diamond Headache Clinic, one of our experienced headache doctors conducts a thorough exam, including a physical checkup, a review of your symptoms, an inquiry into the patient’s and family’s health history, and an analysis of your lifestyle (e.g., levels of stress and physical activity). Physical and neurological (imaging) exams plus other tests (blood tests and X-rays) may be required to rule out other conditions before we can make the correct diagnosis.

What Is the Recommended Severe or Chronic Migraine Treatment?

After a thorough examination and a review of your medical history and lifestyle, your doctor may recommend admission to our inpatient unit at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital. There, you receive immediate, acute treatment to stabilize your condition and an effective long-term outpatient plan. Services provided in the inpatient unit are more intense than is possible on an outpatient basis, and include accelerated pain reduction efforts, intravenous acute and preventive drug regimens, behavior modification therapies and other interventions.

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Inpatient Treatment

At the Diamond Inpatient Headache Unit, we encourage well behavior by teaching patients to cope with pain in healthy, constructive ways. During their hospitalization, patients participate in recreational and therapeutic programs. Relapse into pain behaviors, such as withdrawal or lack of routine, are discouraged. Diagnosis and treatment are presented with a multidisciplinary approach. An entire team — doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, dietitians, physical and activity therapists, and counselors — is involved in the care of each patient.

Depending on your unique needs, these therapy methods may be used in your treatment:

  • Individualized Drug Therapy
    Our physicians recommend specific drug on the basis of your diagnosis and previous response to therapy. Some patients benefit from multiple drugs (co-pharmaceutical approach). Our unit’s full-time pharmacist closely monitors all patients who are prescribed drugs.
  • Detoxification
    If you are dependent on analgesics, we recommend medically supervised withdrawal. Patients receive all the support needed to reduce or stop these drugs.
  • Psychological Intervention
    Patients participate in group sessions. If recommended, Individual psychological and psychiatric counseling sessions are initiated.
  • Biofeedback Training
    This non-drug therapy augments other therapies and has proven to be extremely helpful to many patients.
  • Alternative Therapies
    Acupuncture and massage therapy complement the treatment program and help many patients to relieve stress and tension.
  • Physical and Activity Therapy
    Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, stress management, relaxation training and/or art therapy. Because we want you to understand the causes of headaches and the basis of successful treatment, our program includes patient education, discussion groups, meetings with the staff pharmacist and classes with the dietician.
  • Family Involvement
    We encourage family members to be involved in the program. This is important because family understanding often relieves anger and frustration caused by the patient’s behavior. It also identifies behaviors by family members that may contribute to stress on the patient.
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