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HEALTHBEAT 4: Treating migraines and headaches

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month.

It's a time to recognize headache disorder as a legitimate neurobiological disease. It also looks to encourage those with headaches or migraines to see a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

"Migraines can be horribly debilitating for patients," said Brittany Anderson, a nurse practitioner at CNOS.

Thirty-seven million Americans suffer from migraines according to the National Headache Foundation and one in four households has someone impacted by them.

It can be a crippling diagnosis for some which impacts every part of their daily lives.

"So sometimes they're getting nausea, they're getting light sensibility, they have to put themselves in a dark room so that they can just kind of survive it," said Anderson. "So that's what our goal is to kind of treat those acute migraines, but also can prevent them in the long run."

So what causes them? Anderson said genetics can play a big role. But, lifestyle factors like stress, diet, or poor sleep also have an impact.

"So what we like to do is kind of assess, do a migraine or headache diary, to try to, are any triggers that we can have them try to avoid," said Anderson. "There are certain things that we can cut out again whether that be excessive use of caffeine, overuse of those rescue medications."

Anderson said other options for patients can include Botox injections or injecting an anesthetic to break up that migraine cycle.

On top of the pain, she said stigma and misunderstanding about how debilitating it can be, is another big issue.

"It's shocking to me when someone says oh I've never had a headache and so they have their first headache and realize how debilitating it can be in every facet of someone's life," said Anderson.

But, she said there is new hope for patients who haven't found relief in the past, with professionals trying new medications all the time.

She said seeing a patient get relief, is a very rewarding part of her job.

"They feel like they've gotten their life back," said Anderson. "They can enjoy those things. they feel like they're back to themselves which is pretty amazing."

Anderson says many patients will turn to Ibuprofen or Tylenol to get some relief, but she said using it too much can worsen the headaches or migraines.

Michaela Feldmann

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