Study finds migraines on rise, new treatments available

Have you been suffering from severe headaches for years? Maybe you’ve attributed them to stress over classes or relationships. Maybe you’ve blamed them on partying habits. However, a new study shows that cases of migraines in teenagers are on the rise, and maybe those frequent headaches should be taken more seriously.

A study evaluated 18,714 adolescents ranging in ages from 12 to 19. Of those adolescents, five percent of boys and 7.7 percent of girls reported “frequent migraines.” The problem is not so much the number of migraine sufferers but how those patients are being treated. About 60 percent of those affected with migraines were using over-the-counter medications like Tylenol to treat the severe headaches, but only about 17 percent used prescription drugs to treat migraines.

The first step in determining if you are suffering from frequent headaches or much more severe migraines is to know what a migraine is. The two most common types are classic migraines and common migraines.

Classic migraines begin with what is known as an aura, or a warning sign. The key sign that you are experiencing an aura is in your vision. If you start to lose your peripheral vision or begin to see flashing lights and colors, these can be signs of an aura. Muscle weakness and burning sensations can also accompany auras. These can last from 15 to 30 minutes prior to a migraine.

Common migraines don’t have auras and are thus slowly developing migraines with no warning signs. These tend to last longer and cause more pain than classic migraines.

The big problem with migraines is that they tend to interfere with every day activities. If you feel like you are constantly skipping classes because of severe headaches that are interrupting your otherwise normal life, you may want to see if migraines are to blame. Intense throbbing on the side of your head, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, and lightheadedness can all be symptoms of a migraine.

There are many treatments for migraines available, but the study showed that even though 31 percent of the adolescents qualified for preventative migraine care, only 10.6 percent of them were actually currently under preventative care.

Another scary revelation of the study showed that these adolescents were experiencing a greater frequency of migraines. For example, within a year, a teenager might go from experiencing two migraine attacks a month to 15 or more in a month. And since migraines can last from four to 72 hours, this means that migraines are definitely a major interruption in these teens’ lives.

Because migraines seem to be increasingly problematic for the population, the number of available treatments has also increased. Over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol are recommended for those who suffer from infrequent migraine attacks. However, on the prescription level, Imitrex is by far the most widely used medication, and it’s becoming even easier to use.

When Imitrex was first brought on the market in the early 1990s, it was only available in syringe form.

While at least it was a prescription-strength treatment for migraines, it proved to be very inconvenient for students and working-class patients who might be dealing with a migraine attack at a moment’s notice.

For a few years, Imitrex has also been available through pill form, and basically, if a prescription is available in a pill, that is what people prefer. In fact, though the syringes are still available, they are very rarely prescribed. However, just recently, the newest form of Imitrex was released. The drug is now available as a nasal spray. This is definitely a preferred method of treatment for younger adolescents who suffer from migraines, and it’s also very convenient for people who need to treat a migraine at a moment’s notice.

Remember, just because you suffer from headaches doesn’t mean you have migraines, but if those headaches are becoming more severe and interrupting daily activities, you may want to get checked out.

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