As many as one-third of sufferers of migraine with aura experience forewarning symptoms even the day before an attack that might create an opportunity for intervention and prevention. Later during the actual migraine episode then a significant number of migraine sufferers experience aura prior to an attack, which is characterized by visual disturbances, illusions, zigzag lines, blind spots, speech disturbances, and tingling or numbness on one side of the body.
Migraine scientists meeting this week are considering this subject, among others, at the annual scientific conference of the American Headache Society.
“Migraine is for many people a lightning storm that starts hours or day similar to gathering clouds before the storm, followed by the thunderous pain of the migraine headache,” Dr. Purdy said. “The premonitory phase is well-documented but only recently have scientists considered if migraine can be treated before a patient is in full attack mode.”
Symptoms are often easily recognized by patients, he said, and can include mood changes - a sense of sadness or euphoria - fatigue, problems with concentration, yawning and pallor, increasing sensitivity to light and sound and a general feeling that the attack is about to begin.” In some ways, it’s very much like the PMS that many women report before their menstrual period.”
Dr. Purdy stressed that the premonition is biologic, not psychological. “Until we fully understand the neurobiology of this phenomenon, our advice to patients is to stay alert to the presence of these symptoms and slow down to allow the body to adjust to what maybe coming if a migraine occurs.”
The session “Premonitory Phase of Migraine,” Chaired by Andrew Charles, MD and Joel R. Saper, MD at 8:30 am, Saturday, June 4 in the Grand Hyatt Washington. Dr. Charles is Professor and Director, Headache Research and Treatment Program, Department of Neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Saper is Founder and Director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Top scientists will discuss the mechanisms of the premonitory phase and recent imaging research and treatment.
Treatment during this phase of an attack, especially with triptans, has been shown to be effective with some patients. Werner J. Becker, MD, says in his work with medications administered in the premonitory phase of attack.
“We found that headache prevention is possible when a triptan is administered during the premonitory period,” Dr. Becker said. “And those that did occur appeared to be milder.” Triptans are a class of drugs that constrict blood vessels in the brain and relieve swelling that is associated with migraine pain.
About 500 migraine researchers and clinical specialists are expected to attend the four-day conference.
Some 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, more than have asthma or diabetes combined. Migraine is characterized by pulsating or throbbing pain which can be moderate to severe in intensity. Its severity can be extremely disabling for sufferers, painful enough to cause work loss and absence from activities with family and friends. Migraine costs the United States more than $20 billion each year. Costs are attributed to direct medical expenses (e.g. doctor visits, medications) and indirect expenses (e.g. missed work, lost productivity).
ABOUT THE AMERICAN HEADACHE SOCIETY
The American Headache Society® (AHS) is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, publication of the journal Headache and sponsorship of the AHS Committee for Headache Education (ACHE).
ABOUT THE AMERICAN MIGRAINE FOUNDATION
The American Migraine Foundation is a non-profit foundation supported by the American Headache Society and generous donors dedicated to the advancement of migraine research. The mission of this newly formed foundation is to support innovative research that will lead to improvement in the lives of those who suffer from migraine and other disabling headaches.
Contact: Jamie Evans
MBooth & Associates