THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH

New treatments, headache school emerging to treat migraine attacks

Jan 11, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2023, 1:18 pm
a woman holds her head because of a migrain...
Migraine attacks are about three times more common in women than in men. (Mast3r/Deposit Photos)
(Mast3r/Deposit Photos)

SALT LAKE CITY — Some 37 million Americans experience migraine attacks, which are about three times more common in women than in men. Migraines affect more than 10% of people worldwide, according to JAMA Network. But don’t despair, help is out there.

Dr. Kathleen Digre, neurology and migraine expert at the Moran Eye Center, discussed with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic the new treatments available to patients and even a headache school at the University of Utah.

An on-air migraine attack

 Canadian television reporter Jessica Robb was reporting live on CTV Edmonton on Sunday when she began to mix up her words. She told the news program host she wasn’t feeling well. As the host wrapped up the segment, Robb appears to be on the verge of falling over.

 

Both Dave and Debbie thought Robb was suffering a stroke.

“You listen to the slurred speech, kind of disoriented. I was absolutely convinced I was watching that happen live on air,” he said.

Treatments: yesterday and today

Digre said the tingling and numbness of a migraine can mimic a stroke.

“That’s why getting the right diagnosis is critical for anybody who has an attack like this,” she said.

Digre added 30% of migraine sufferers experience an aura, which is typically visual, before the headache phase of the attack. Speech difficulty can also accompany the onset of a migraine, she added.

“What separates [a migraine] from say your typical headache?” Dave asked.

During a migraine, “the neurologic things, we think, are the result of a spreading depression, a depolarization in the brain. It’s very slow movement, a wave for example in the brain, and that is what causes the visual scintillation, numbness or tingling and even speech problems,” Digre said.

Debbie said she experienced her first migraines in her 20s. 

“The doctor said [take] four, 200 milligrams of ibuprofen right away as soon as you see the auras coming into your eyeballs and fully leaded can of Coke… I don’t even know if you recommend that anymore, but that was my recommendation. What are the new treatments for migraines?” she asked.

“You don’t have to just take an ibuprofen and a Coke anymore,” Digre said. “We have migraine-specific treatments called triptans. And you may have heard of sumatriptan [Imitrex], naratriptan [Amerge] and so forth… and then we have great new preventatives [but] older preventatives still work, too. But we have many new preventatives called monoclonal antibodies. These are once-a-month shots for migraines.”

What are the new drugs for the treatment of migraines?

More migraine help at the U

“It’s unfortunate that there are a lot of people with migraines and sometimes they don’t get the care they need,” Digre said. “At the university, we’ve actually started a headache school. It’s free. It’s online.”

The school is called the University of Utah School of Medicine Headache School.

“We have lectures on headache 101, all the different kinds of headaches, medications that are out there and available to people… This is a good way to educate yourself and then talk to your provider about your headache or the symptoms you’re having with your headache,” Digre said.

 

————

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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