DEAR DR. DONOHUE:
Please say something about migraine headaches. I think that’s what I have. They come on fast, and the pain feels like something is pulsating in my head. I throw up with every headache. Bright lights make things worse. Does all this sound like a migraine to you? Someone told me there’s always a warning before a migraine starts. I have no warning. I’ve used Tylenol, but it doesn’t do much for me. What is the treatment? Can they be prevented? — L.G.
Your headaches have many of the characteristics of a migraine headache. The warning mentioned to you is an aura. The aura usually precedes a migraine. It can be flashing zigzag lines, peculiar sensations — often in the hands — trouble finding the right words to speak or weakness of a group of muscles. Only 20 percent of migraine patients have an aura, so it’s not an indispensable migraine sign.
Nausea and vomiting are common migraine symptoms. Seventy percent of migraine patients have a one-sided headache that they describe as throbbing or a dull ache. It lasts from four hours to three days. People with migraines are very sensitive to light and sound, so they seek a dark, quiet room to lie down.
Stress, overexertion, sleep deprivation and hunger can provoke a migraine. Some foods and drinks can do the same. Alcohol (especially red wine); caff eine; pickles; bananas; yogurt; avocados; aged cheeses; pickled or marinated chicken, beef or fish; salami; pastrami; bacon; pepperoni; hot dogs; and the taste enhancer monosodium glutamate are on the list of possible migraine inducers.
Medicines for treating a migraine abound. Tylenol, aspirin and drugs like ibuprofen take care of mild migraines. For more severe ones, triptans are the standard treatment. They include Imitrex, Axert, Frova, Zomig, Amerge and Maxalt. An older medicine, ergotamine, still has a place in treatment
For migraine prevention, propranolol, verapamil and amitriptyline are prescribed if the headaches occur often and disrupt life.
The headache booklet discusses the causes and treatment of the more common kinds of headaches. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 901W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE:
Tonight my wife choked on a piece of corn. She jumped up gasping, and looked at me as if I should have done something. Her gasping stopped, and she could breathe. She asked me why I didn’t jump up and hit her back. I heard if you hit somebody choking on the back, it could force the food farther down. Did I do the right thing? — R.M.
ANSWER: The Red Cross has changed its instructions on how to handle a choking adult. It now recommends leaning the person forward and giving five blows to the back between the shoulder blades with the heel of the hand. If that doesn’t dislodge the food, then start the Heimlich maneuver.
Dr. Heimlich was never in favor of back thumps. He believed it could cause the food to drop farther down the windpipe — the trachea.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
© 2010 North America Synd.