DEAR DR. DONOHUE: As an adolescent and young adult, I was plagued with migraine headaches. Finally, one of my doctors prescribed Inderal, which I took twice a day for about one and a half years. It totally controlled my headaches. Eventually I tapered off of it. I was migrainefree for several years. I restarted it when the headaches returned, and it again controlled them. The cure seemed like a miracle to me. I’ve often wondered why it’s not a commonly prescribed medicine for migraines. Would you comment? – M.R.
ANSWER: For those not familiar with migraine headaches, be thankful. They’re some of the worst headaches imaginable. In about 60 percent of people, the headache is on one side of the head. The remainder feel it on both sides. It’s a throbbing headache. The pulsations are in time with the heartbeat. Nausea frequently accompanies the headache and might precipitate vomiting. Activity, bright light and loud sounds aggravate the pain, so a migraine sufferer seeks out a quiet, dark room to lie down until the headache subsides. That can take from four hours to three days.
Triptan drugs have revolutionized migraine treatment. Brand names include Imitrex, Zomig, Maxalt, Amerge and Frova. Ergotamine, a medicine that’s been around for many years, still comes to the rescue for many.
You don’t see Inderal on the list for migraine treatment. It doesn’t work for that. However, it is on the list for migraine prevention. Here it does work. How it does so hasn’t been fully defined. I’m happy to hear that it has been a success for you. It is for many. Inderal is a beta blocker drug. Other beta blockers are also prescribed for migraine prevention. If none of them achieves that goal, there are other medicines that can.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Eighteen months ago, while sleeping, my arms and legs shook violently. I stayed asleep while it was happening, but my husband woke and observed the whole thing. He took me to the hospital, and I was admitted for observation. During the hospitalization, I had brain-wave tests, many brain scans, X-rays and a spinal tap. All the tests were normal. No definite diagnosis was made. What do you think I had? – R.C.
ANSWER: I’d say you had a seizure.
Brain seizures are sudden discharges of electrical activity in the brain. Often tests – even the brain-wave test, an EEG, electroencephalogram – can be normal.
The tests were important. They have proved that you don’t have other things, like a brain tumor.
Many people have one seizure without ever having another. In the meantime, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent a seizure from happening.
I wouldn’t dwell on this. It can make you a nervous wreck. You’ve gone a full year and a half without a repeat seizure. That’s a good sign.
Dr. Donohue 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, FL32853-6475.
©2007 North America Synd.