Entries in Headache (4)


Study: Understanding 'Brain Freeze' May Be Key to Migraine Treatment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While most of us love ice cream, we certainly don't love the jarring headache, commonly known as "brain freeze," that happens to some people after eating it.

What causes this phenomenon has long baffled scientists, but in new research presented at this year's Experimental Biology meeting, scientists may have identified the cause as a change in the brain's blood flow associated with consuming cold drinks or desserts.

Researchers led by Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School and the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System induced brain freeze in 13 adults.  They monitored subjects' blood flow using diagnostic imaging while they sipped ice water with the straw pressing on the upper palate, and then while they sipped room-temperature water.

Participants raised their hands once the ice cream headache hit and then again when the pain went away.  The researchers found that blood flow increased rapidly in one of the arteries of the brain at the onset of brain freeze, and diminished when the pain receded.

Serrador said in a statement that the study, which isn't yet published, suggests that the increased blood flow can cause pain and the quick arterial constriction that follows may serve to bring pressure down.

He also explained that changes in blood flow to the brain may play a role in migraines and other types of headaches.  If subsequent studies confirm these findings, they could have implications for treatment.  Drugs that prevent the sudden arterial dilation could potentially be an effective remedy for these debilitating headaches.

But experts not involved in the study argued that the majority of headaches are not caused by alterations in blood flow.  Migraine, for example, is widely considered to be a brain disorder, not a blood vessel disorder.

"We have known for decades that migraine is caused by nerve dysfunction.  There may be vascular changes, but they are only secondary," said Dr. Teshamae Monteith, director of the headache program at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.  "Patients experience warning symptoms such as food cravings, frequent yawning, fatigue, and neck stiffness a day before the pain, suggesting that migraine is a state of brain dysfunction as opposed to one of vascular dysfunction."

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, added that the study doesn't seem to provide any evidence that the altered blood flow actually caused the pain.

"It could be that the cold is irritating the nerve and it's causing pain, and maybe the blood flow is the result of the pain, or the result of something being that cold," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Summer Season Can Be Painful for Migraine Sufferers

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are numerous triggers that can make summer an especially painful time of year for many people prone to migraines.

Some research has suggested that summer is the worst time of year, but experts say it really depends on what factors set off migraines.

"Some people do experience more migraines in the summer but, for others, the winter is worse," said Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor.

Those who suffer in the summer might experience a migraine when exposed to some of these common triggers:


Losing a lot of water and sodium through sweating can trigger migraines.

"If a lot of sodium is lost when sweating, it can dilute the bloodstream a bit and when sodium goes down to a certain point, it can be very headache-provoking," Saper said.

A similar effect can happen if people drink too much water.  Over-hydration can also throw off the balance of electrolytes, which can lead to a migraine.

Lazy Days of Summer

"Migraines can happen at a time of a let down from stress.  When a person has a chance to relax, it may be the time for headaches to happen," said Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles. "The first days of vacation or the start of the weekend are common times for migraines to occur."

Changes in sleep patterns can also cause migraines in some people.  The longer days often cause people to go to sleep later than usual.

Migraines can also be caused when people don't eat at their normal times, which tends to happen in the summer.  Maintaining consistent sleeping and eating patterns is key, Saper said.

Environmental Factors

Summer allergens, such as grass pollen, can also trigger migraines.

Humidity can increase the levels of some allergens in the environment and can also cause migraines in other ways.

"Humidity can trigger migraines because when it's humid, you can pick up odors you wouldn't smell on a less humid day," Saper said.

Other summer migraine triggers include the heat, which can cause changes in body temperature, alcoholic beverages, and higher altitudes some people might experience when they go camping.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nausea Associated with More Severe Migraines

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the almost 30 million Americans who suffer from migraines, experiencing nausea on top of the debilitating headache may signal that they are having a more intense migraine than they thought.

Reasearchers at Montefiore Medical Center surveyed 6,500 migraine sufferers and found that those who frequently experienced nausea with their migraines were also at greater odds of experiencing other symptoms associated with more severe migraines such as sensitivity to light, sound, or smell, loss of appetite, as well as neck and sinus pain than patients who did not or only infrequently became nauseous.

Furthermore, the authors of the study, which was presented at the American Headache Society meeting, found that migraine-related nausea was also associated with greater dissatisfaction with medication effectiveness.  The authors think that "some patients with nausea delay or skip taking their oral treatment."

They concluded that by recognizing and treating the nausea, they may be able to reduce the burden of migraine for certain migraine sufferers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Botox May Not be Effective in Limiting Migraines

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON, U.K.) - Although Botox has been licensed as a preventative measure for chronic migraines, new research suggests that the treatment is "little help" for the pain.

The Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin says there is little evidence that the anti-wrinkle injections have a significant impact for migraine sufferers. Others, however, such as Migraine Action, say the option should be available to help block the pain.

"Anyone who suffers from chronic migraine knows that there is no cure, but for these patients, who are often quite disabled by their unremitting and remorseless pattern of headaches and migraines, any new treatment that helps them to get their lives back in control and to proactively manage their condition like Botox, gives them hope for a better future," said Migraine Action Director Lee Tomkins.

Although a previous trial of more than 1,300 patients showed that Botox was successful in reducing the number of headaches, the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin questions the results, saying Botox has been shown to worsen migraine symptoms in around one in 10 people.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio