Migraine Treatment Proven Effective… So Why Are So Few Doing It?

Migraine treatments usually combat the disruptive symptoms of the disorder, but doctors found that a preventative treatment can actually reduce migraines by 50 percent. The problem is that very few patients are actually using it.

The National Academy of Neurology is trying to change that, pushing physicians to treat migraine patients in an effort to reduce the frequency and severity of the migraines, NPR reported. These treatments can take many forms–from beta blockers used in blood pressure medication to anti-seizure drugs and even Botox injections–and help roughly 38 percent of migraine sufferers find relief from the symptoms that leave them doubled over in pain and can cause them to miss work.

But few doctors have taken the approach, NPR reported. Only somewhere between 3 percent and 13 percent of patients are being given some form of preventative migraine treatment.

“For a given patient, half [the migraines] is usually a significant improvement,” Charles Flippen, a University of California, Los Angeles, neurologist and researcher, told NPR. “If you go from 15 headache days per month down to seven, that’s a significant change.”

Instead of receiving migraine treatment most people instead suffer in silence, Flippen said. He added that preventative treatments don’t actually cure migraines, and for patients who still suffer debilitating pain and nausea a medication called triptans can be prescribed. The treatment is effective and quick, but close to 20 percent of patients don’t respond to them, Flippen said.

Whatever the effectiveness of treatments, the National Academy of Neurology has made it clear that doctors need to be doing something to reduce migraines. The academy in April released new guidelines for migraine treatment that included several alternative therapies for migraines like herbs, McClatchy Newspapers reported.

Without migraine treatment, the disorder can devolve into a cycle of worsening symptoms.

“There seems to be this sort of tipping point where patients go from having episodic headaches to having them really continuously and being in a state of constant sensory sensitivity,” Andrew Charles, director of UCLA’s Headache Research and Treatment Program, told NPR. Charles noted that researchers are looking into why that tipping point occurs and hope to one day find a migraine treatment that can wipe out the disorder entirely.