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Taking medication to stop an attack prevents migraines from becoming chronic

Posted Dec 22 2012 10:04pm

The use of acute anti-migraine medications in patients with episodic migraine (migraine occurring on less than 14 days a month) prevents progression of episodic migraine into its chronic form, according to Dr. Zaza Katsarava and his colleagues in Essen, Germany. They followed 1,601 patients with episodic migraine headaches for two years. None of these patients were taking prophylactic medications and 151 patients took no acute anti-migraine medications. Overall, during the two years of observation, 6.2% of 1,601 patients developed chronic migraines (defined as headaches occurring on 15 or more days each month). However, those who took triptans (sumatriptan and other) had a 66% reduction of risk of headaches becoming chronic, those who took a single pain medicine had a 61% lower risk of chronification, and those who took a combination pain killer, like Excedrin, had a 40% reduction of this risk. This analysis took into account patients’ age, sex, body mass, education level and baseline migraine frequency. A possible explanation for why combination drugs were less protective is that most of them contain caffeine, which is known to make headaches worse. Another very important lesson that can be drawn from this study is that it is important to treat migraine attacks with effective medications because if left untreated these intermittent attacks may become more frequent and even daily. At least two million Americans suffer from chronic migraines and it is likely that in many this debilitating condition could have been prevented by more aggressive and effective treatment of acute attacks.

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