Headache & Migraine Treatment

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Throbbing and pulsing pain in your head, along with nausea or sensitivity to light, can stop you cold in your tracks. These hard-to-ignore symptoms can interfere with your work and life activities. If left untreated, severe headaches, like migraines, can be debilitating.

At UVA Health, we can help. Our goal is to get you the right diagnosis and personalized care to help you and your family cope with your headaches and maximize your quality of life. 

Migraine Treatment

Treating migraines usually involves medication:

  • Preventive medicines are taken regularly. They're used to reduce how often migraines happen or how bad they get. These may be antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, or medicine that reduce blood pressure, for example.
  • Pain-relieving medicines are used when a migraine is happening to help with symptoms. These can include over-the-counter medications or stronger prescription medicine.

Your healthcare provider will work with you to get you the right treatment.

Why am I Getting Migraines?

Migraines occur more often in women than in men.

Triggers or causes may include:

  • Stress
  • Certain foods or smells
  • Loud noises
  • Cigarette and cigar smoke
  • Hormonal changes

Symptoms of migraines may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Aura
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and balance problems

What is an Aura?

Auras can happen before or during a migraine. Auras usually cause:

  • Vision symptoms, like light flashes, bright spots, or shapes
  • Loss of vision
  • Difficulty talking
  • Pins and needles in your limbs
  • Weakness or numbness in your face or on one side of your body

Cluster headaches

A cluster headache is the most severe type of headache. Cluster headaches may wake you up in the middle of the night from the pain. You may visit the emergency room on a regular basis.

Traditional medication management doesn't work for cluster headaches. Cluster headaches happen in cycles. The average cycle lasts up to six weeks. During a cycle, you may have many severe headaches.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are more common than migraines and cluster headaches. They cause mild to moderate symptoms but can last for up to a week. Unlike migraine headaches, they don't cause nausea.

If you suffer from headaches and have one or more of the following, you should be checked by a healthcare provider:

  • Frequency and severity of headaches interfering with work and leisure activities
  • Current headache treatment doesn't work
  • You take many over-the-counter medications to keep your headaches under control
  • You visit the emergency room often due to headaches
  • You are on disability because of headaches
  • The type and/or severity of your headaches recently changed
  • You are over age 50 and recently had a new type of headache