Migraine affects 39 million people in the United States and 1 billion people worldwide.
Although common, migraine can be incapacitating. More than 90 percent of sufferers are not able to work or function normally during migraine attacks. Long-term efforts of coping with migraine may also predispose sufferers to other illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression tend to be more common in people with migraine compared with individuals who do not suffer from these severe headaches.
Findings of a pilot study, however, may pave way for treatment that can help ease the burden of individuals suffering from migraine without having to rely on medication.
In a new study published in the scientific journal Cephalalgia, researchers have shown them by using a small inhaler to slightly change the molecules of the body, some migraine patients can cut down or even completely shun their medications.
The pilot study involved individuals who suffer from a migraine with aura, which is marked by the occurrence of sensory or visual disturbance before the headaches begin. About 25 percent of migraine sufferers have an aura, which often lasts less than an hour.
Study researcher Troels Johansen, from Aarhus University, explained that migraines occur as part of a chain reaction that happens when the veins in the brain contract preventing the blood from supplying the brain with sufficient amount of oxygen.
He explained that this inhaler works by expanding the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain.
“We utilise CO2 and oxygen, which are the body’s natural molecules for mobilising its own defence against migraine attacks. The inhaler expands the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen by up to seventy per cent and thereby stops the destructive chain reaction,” Johansen explained in a statement published by EurekAlert.
The effect of the treatment is immediate and can be felt after a few seconds.
In the pilot study involving 11 patients, the researchers showed that the effect of the pain reliever increased significantly after every use.
Of the participants, 45 percent experienced an effect the first time they used the inhaler, and the number increased to 78 percent the second time.
The researchers plan to conduct a larger clinical trial that will include participants without aura and chronic migraine. Johansen, however, has already put the inhaler into production through the company BalancAir.
“Normoxic hypercapnia shows promise as an adjunctive/alternative migraine treatment, meriting further investigation in a larger population,” the researchers wrote in their study.