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  • Writer's pictureBreyanna Grays, MD

Migraine Facts

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Learn about causes, available treatments and preventative measures that can be taken to improve your quality of life with migraine.

Quick Facts about Migraine

  • Migraine has been listed as the sixth most disabling disorder by the World Health Organization.

  • Global 1-year prevalence is approximately 15 percent

  • Migraine costs the United States 19.6 billion annually in both direct and indirect costs such as lost productivity to the workforce

  • Migraine affects females to males 3:1

Characteristics of Migraine

  • unilateral pain (pain on one side of the head)

  • pulsating quality

  • moderate to severe in nature

  • exacerbated by physical activity

  • associated with nausea and/or vomiting

  • associated with sensitivity to light and/or sound

Causes of Migraine

Over the years, there have been many theories regarding the cause of migraine. The first theory noted that migraine may have been secondary to dilation of the cranial vessels, which led to the use of ergotamine in migraine and the development of the triptans, a class of medications known to be effective in migraine.

Currently, migraine is seen as a neurovascular disorder with many factors coming into play regarding the cause of migraine such as: sensitization of neurons that respond to pain as well as brainstem and hypothalamic dysfunction.

Another theory is related to the activation of the trigeminovascular system which results in the release of neuropeptides such as calcium gene related peptide (CGRP). CGRP has been found to be released during migraine attacks. CGRP’s mechanism is unclear, but it has been shown to cause vessel dilation and modulate neuronal function. CGRP and other neuropeptides are now targets for new migraine drugs.

Treatment for Acute Migraine

Acute treatment for migraine includes: triptans, ergotamine, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Caution is used with triptans and ergotamine (these medications are avoided in cardiovascular disease) and overuse of NSAIDs can lead to peptic ulcer disease and renal impairment. When acute medications are used frequently, there is also a risk of medication overuse headache, and a daily medication used to prevent migraines may be considered.

Commonly used preventative medications include divalproex, gabapentin, tricyclic anti-depressants, and beta blockers.

Once a preventative medication is considered for migraine, drug-drug interactions, adverse effects, medical contraindications and patient tolerability are taken into consideration before use.

Treatment for Chronic Migraine

Botulinum toxin may be an option in patients with chronic migraine, which is defined as having a headache more than 15 days per month. Of those 15 days, at least 8 headaches have the features of migraine headaches. The CGRP receptor antibody, erenumab, has also been shown to be effective for migraine and has been approved for use in chronic migraine.

Risk factors for transformation from episodic migraine to chronic migraine include the following: medication overuse (especially opiates and barbiturates), high caffeine consumption, anxiety, depression, obesity, female gender, injuries to the head and neck, snoring and sleep apnea.

Basic Preventative Tips and Self-Care for Migraine

  • Keep a record of triggers for migraine (dietary triggers, sleep habits, stress, alcohol use, etc.)

  • Stay hydrated daily

  • Avoid excessive caffeine – alternatively caffeine withdrawal can trigger migraines as well

  • Practice good sleep hygiene

  • Limit usage of acute migraine medications to 1-2 times per week

If migraines are an ongoing issue in your life, contact your neurologist to learn your treatment options.


  • Ahn, Andrew H., and Allan I. Basbaum. "Where Do Triptans Act in the Treatment of Migraine?" Pain. U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2005. Web.

  • Evans, Randophn W. "An Update on the Management of Chronic Migraine." Practical Neurology 12.6 (2013): 27-32. Print.

  • Goadsby, Peter J., Philip R. Holland, Margarida Martins-Oliveira, Jan Hoffmann, Christoph Schankin, and Simon

  • Akerman. "Pathophysiology of Migraine: A Disorder of Sensory Processing." Physiological Reviews 97.2 (2017): 553-622. Web.

  • Goadsby, Peter J. "Vascular Theory of Migraine-a Great Story Wrecked by the Facts | Brain | Oxford Academic." OUP Academic. Oxford University Press, 22 Jan. 2009. Web.

  • “ICHD-3 The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd Edition.” ICHD-3 The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd Edition, Classification Committee of The International Headache Society, 2018,

  • Marmura, Michael J., Stephen D. Silberstein, and Todd J. Schwedt. "The Acute Treatment of Migraine in Adults: The American Headache Society Evidence Assessment of Migraine Pharmacotherapies." Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 20 Jan. 2015. Web.

Medical Disclaimer

All information on is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure any medical condition. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your healthcare provider. Please contact your emergency facility in the event of an emergency. Information provided on this website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and the physicians affiliated with this website.

This is an independently owned website and all opinions expressed are from the physicians at Viewpoint Neurology, PLLC and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party. Viewpoint Neurology, PLLC and any of its physicians are not liable for any outcomes, damages or injuries resulting from the display or use of the website.

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