What is a Migraine Specialist?
Each year, millions of Americans suffer from debilitating headaches that leave them unable to attend work, school, and extracurricular activities. If you have ever suffered from a migraine, you know how painful and frustrating the condition can be. People of all ages can get a migraine, and it can become a chronic condition. There are many possible reasons for a migraine, which is still a condition that is undergoing much research. Stress, excess sugar consumption, hormones, and other diseases have been linked to migraines.
If an incapacitating headache sounds familiar, it may be time to visit a migraine specialist. A migraine specialist specifically treats migraine headaches. As with any specialist, you should start with a visit to your primary care physician. Your physician may then direct you to a specialist depending on your symptoms. A migraine specialist may hold a certification from the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS). Others, however, just have a specialist interest in treating migraines. Any physician who has completed the UCNS certification exam may hold the title of “headache specialist.” Nationwide, about 1,500 – 2,000 doctors have received this certification, which is a relatively new area of expertise.
Since a migraine is a complex condition, you may be referred to one or more specialists for diagnosis and care. What is confusing to many people is that although a migraine is classified as a neurological disease, a neurologist may not be the type of migraine doctor who you visit for migraine management. A neurologist is the most common migraine specialist who you may be referred to for treatment. However, your doctor may suggest that you visit another specialist based on your symptoms. This may include an ophthalmologist, an otolaryngologist, an allergist, or a pain management specialist. You’ll probably be referred to an ophthalmologist if you experience blindness (aura) during a migraine. If you experience sinus problems during a migraine attack, you’ll probably see an otolaryngologist. If you have allergy-like symptoms, you will likely be referred to an allergist. A pain management specialist will help you manage pain associated with your migraine.
Should I See a Neurologist or Headache Specialist for Migraines?
There are many different causes and symptoms associated with a migraine headache. Therefore, the symptoms you are experiencing determine the best migraine specialist for you to visit. A neurologist is a physician who focuses on the functions, disorders, and general anatomy of the nerves, the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. This includes a broad range of spinal cord, neck, and head diseases and injuries. Despite what many people think, a neurologist may or may not specialize in migraine headache treatment. A neurologist may study a number of problems related to the nervous system, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal Cord Problems
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Sleep Disorders
- Brain Disease and Injury
A neurologist may also treat neuromuscular conditions, which are diseases related to the connection between muscles and the nervous system. A neurologist might focus on migraines, either alone or in conjunction with another area of sub-specialty.
A headache specialist, in contrast, is a physician who may have a background besides neurology. A headache specialist may be a primary care physician, allergist, or an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Doctors with a focus on mental health may treat migraines, too. The migraine specialist who you visit will take a different approach to treatment and diagnosis for a migraine. A neurologist may check for problems in the blood vessels or infections in the brain and spinal cord. He or she may use magnetic resonance imaging technology (or an MRI) to look for anatomical abnormalities like nervous system diseases, tumors, and strokes. An allergist may complete blood work to check for allergies, while an ENT specialist may examine your nose and sinuses to look for allergy-related problems. If stress is a suspected factor in your headache triggers, your physician may recommend visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist for stress management techniques.
Treatment for Headache and Migraine Patients
Since migraines are attributed to numerous causes, the appropriate treatment for you depends on the source of your headache. A migraine doctor may prescribe one or several remedies ranging from conventional medications to stress management tools. Some of the most common migraine treatments include:
- Pain relievers
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications
- Nerve Pain Medication
- Anti-nausea Medication
- Self-care Techniques (diet modification, improved sleep habits, stress management)
Migraine medications are divided into two categories, which are preventive and abortive. Preventative medications are designed to stop migraine symptoms before they start. Abortive medications control and alleviate migraine symptoms after they have started. These medications can be administered orally, through a skin patch, and through a nasal spray. Abortive medications are most helpful for individuals who experience nausea and vomiting from migraines. Abortive medications are also fast-acting. Many are prescription drugs that include opioids and serotonin.
Most chemical-based medications are fast-acting and provide rapid relief. Sometimes, a migraine specialist will encourage self-care techniques for longer-term holistic relief. A migraine doctor, for instance, might suggest diet modification if the foods that you eat (salty, sugary, and processed) are attributed to your migraine headaches. Your migraine doctor may also recommend working on improving your sleeping habits if he or she suspects that a lack of quality sleep is a contributing factor to your headaches. Sometimes, migraines can be alleviated with Botox treatments.
The type of medication that you are prescribed may also be determined by the symptoms that you experience. Your migraine specialist will also consider your medical history when prescribing treatment, as your medical past may make certain treatments unsafe. A specialist may also recommend that you visit a migraine clinic to partake in cutting-edge research and treatment therapies. This course of treatment may be recommended if you get side effects from conventional medications or if you have particularly severe or frequent migraines.
Here are key facts and statistics about migraines to date:
- Migraines are among the top 10 disabling illnesses worldwide
- A migraine headache is the third most prevalent illness worldwide
- Migraines affect approximately one out of seven individuals
- About 25% of migraines are accompanied by visual disturbances
- A migraine lasts 4-72 hours on average
- About one in four members of an American household suffer from migraines
- Children with a parent who has migraines are 50% more likely to get one, too
- Children with two parents who suffer from migraines are 75% more likely to experience a migraine
- Migraines affect women more than three times as much as men
- Worldwide, migraines affect nearly 40 million people
- Approximately 148 million individuals suffer from some form of a chronic migraine
- Migraines cost about $20 million annually
- Over four million Americans suffer chronic migraines
- Medication overuse and misuse is attributed to most chronic migraines
- Sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression are common in people with chronic migraines
Researchers also know that migraines (about 50%) are still largely un-diagnosed and not treated properly. Not all migraine sufferers seek medical treatment for their condition, either. For every 25% of individuals who could benefit from preventative migraine treatments, only about 12% seek (and receive) adequate treatment from a migraine specialist. Funding, once historically low for migraine treatments, was boosted with the establishment of the Migraine Research Foundation in 2006.
Get your life back on track by receiving the best pain relief treatment available in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano, Texas area. Contact us now to set up an appointment with pain management doctor, Dr. Rodriguez.