Master the Migraine Before It Starts

Headache prevention treatment offers many benefits

THURSDAY, Dec. 4, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Treatment to prevent migraine can be more effective than treating pain after a migraine has started, says Dr. Stephen D. Silberstein, president-elect of the American Headache Society.

"Migraine preventive therapy is grossly underused," Silberstein, director of the Jefferson Headache Center and a professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says in a prepared statement.

He spoke Dec. 4 at an American Medical Association media briefing on advances in neurology in New York City.

The focus of migraine prevention is to: reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks; improve response to treatment; improve function and lower disability; reduce the use of acute migraine medications and the risk of overuse; prevent a worsening of migraines; and to reduce health-care costs.

"The tragedy is that 53 percent of patients with migraine meet the criteria (according to the frequency and severity of their headaches) for preventive treatment, but only 5 percent actually use preventive therapy," Silberstein says.

A recent study of migraine patients who changed from acute therapy (taking medication when they experienced a migraine) to preventive therapy showed dramatic results.

Office visits declined by more than half, emergency department visits decreased by 82 percent, CT scans decreased by 75 percent, MRI scans decreased by 88 percent, and medication costs decreased by $48 to $138/month/patient.

About 25 million to 30 million Americans suffer migraines and many more are underdiagnosed. Migraine costs the United States about $17 billion in health care and lost labor costs each year.

More information

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SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, Dec. 4, 2003
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