Migraine headaches and their treatment
Migraine headaches are suffered regularly by large numbers of people. They can be seriously debilitating, often taking the form of severe pain and light sensitivity for the eyes. Each attack frequently results in days in bed, time lost from both work and family life.
Attacks can be controlled, with varying degrees of effectiveness, by a number of drugs, though most sufferers report them to be less than satisfactory. In recent years, injections of Botulinum toxin A ('Botox') have been found to be remarkably successful in reducing both the severity and frequency of attacks in a large proportion of (though not all) migraine sufferers.
Treatment of chronic migraine headaches with Botulinum toxin A ('Botox ') injections
- People suffering from migraine headaches for 15 days or more per month, each attack lasting 4 hours or more are considered to be chronic migraine sufferers, and are the typical subjects for treatment with Botulinum toxin A (Botox).
- 95% of migraine sufferers have trigger points, physical spots on the body, typically around the head, neck and shoulders, excessive tension or other stress in any of which can trigger a migraine attack.
- About two-thirds of chronic migraine sufferers have the severity and number of attacks significantly reduced by Botulinum toxin A treatment, with about half of these having their pain almost completely removed. Unfortunately, for the remaining one-third, Botulinum toxin A is not effective.
- Although Botulinum toxin A is officially recognised as a treatment for chronic migraine, this does not exclude the possibility that it may be effective in the treatment of other types of debilitating headache attacks.
Patients are given minute multiple injections of Botulinum toxin A (Botox) into the muscles of the forehead, plus into the side and back of head if necessary, and sometimes also into the neck.
- Results can be fast, taking effect within a week, or they can take several weeks for the full effects to develop.
- Patients will usually need several treatment sessions for the beneficial effects to start to build up, and will probably need to continue over a prolonged period to maintain the improvement.
- Although this is not a cure for migraine, many patients have the severity and frequency of headache attacks significantly reduced by this treatment. In some patients, even if treatment is not wholly effective, their need for other pain-killing medicines may well be greatly reduced.
- As has been found in at least one major clinical trial, some patients can benefit by having several rounds of treatment.