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Why Migraine Is Often Only One Symptom of a Larger Neurological Disorder

June 15, 2021

The pain many people refer to as a migraine headache is just one symptom of a complex neurological disorder that can require preventative medication or abortive measures to stop them once they’ve started.

Dr. Sandhya Mehla, a specialist with the Headache Center at the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute, said the migraine disorder includes a headache but can also come with such symptoms as light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, nausea and other neurological symptoms that come with aura. Migraines can last four to 72 hours and strike on one or both sides of the head.

“Migraine is the most disabling disorder in men and women under the age of 50,” Dr. Mehla said. “These are very disabling headache and neurological symptoms.”

Yet migraine is just one of many neurological disorders with headache as a symptom, she said. This makes it important if you experiences a new onset of headache to seek medical care to determine if it’s caused by a medical condition.

Dr. Mehla also said if migraine or headache start to interfere with your daily life or you notice an irregular need to take over-the-counter pain medication, you should seek expert advice, preferably from a headache specialist.

You’ll find that treatment categories for migraines have broadened in the past few years.

“This is a very exciting time for migraine,” Dr. Mehla said. “Previously, we used medication that had been developed for other medical conditions and studied for headache. Now, we have newer medications that were developed exclusively for migraine.”

These include:

  • Abortive therapies designed to stop migraines once they start.
  • Preventive therapies. One form of this type of therapy includes monoclonal antibodies injected monthly.
  • Neuromodulation devices worn to provide acute and preventive therapy.

“At the Headache Center, we approach migraine in a very comprehensive manner and create customized approaches for each patient,” Dr. Mehla said.

Headache Center