Dr. Claudio A. Osorio, Epileptologist, is Board Certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, and Epilepsy. He attended medical school at Cartagena University in Colombia. His neurology residency training took place at Bethesda Walter Reed Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland. Practiced as a neurologist in hospitals located in Washington DC and Yokosuka, Japan as part of the US Navy medical team. Master’ degree in public health obtained at the prestigious Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Completed neurology studies with a two-year fellowship in epilepsy in one of the top Neurology Schools in the country, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
According to the World Health Organization, headache disorders are the most common disorders of the nervous system. Up to 4% of adults experience a headache on 15 or more days per month.
1. What symptoms may you feel when you have a migraine vs. a regular headache?
Many of us have experienced a mild to moderate headache, usually as the result of severe flu symptoms or dehydration after a vigorous exercise routine. Migraines are rather a severe type of headache that is felt as a throbbing, pulsating pain that can vary in location over the head, not necessarily locked during every episode. Frequently, the patients complain about light sensitivity, noise sensitivity and nausea. Occasionally, migraines are preceded by visual changes in the form of flashing lights, a phenomenon called “aura”. Migraines can be disabling, may not respond to over the counter medication, and can become frequent. Patients suffering from this type of headaches or any severe headache should be evaluated by a medical provider to rule out other potential causes that may be deleterious for the health of patients.
2. Does lifestyle impact intensity of migraines and headaches?
There are lifestyle changes that can help in reducing the frequency and severity of the migraines. Exercising regularly, drinking water frequently during the day, avoiding caffeine, keeping a regular sleep schedule with a minimum of 7 hours per night, and eating a healthy diet are lifestyle hacks that can prevent migraines. Patients with frequent migraines are sensitive to skipping meals, alcohol and sleep deprivation. A common-sense healthy lifestyle is the way to go.
3. What other specific changes can we do to prevent—or at least reduce the frequency of—migraines and/or headaches?
Some patients have particular triggers, and these include specific meals. The most commons food triggers are monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, also heavily processed carbohydrates like brownies, cake, pizza. Processed meat like sausages, and salami can also lower the threshold for migraines. Several migraines can be prevented after identifying specific food triggers, and that is why migraine patients should pay attention and even keep a log of what they eat when suffering from frequent migraines.
4. Is a persons’ mental health affected by migraine and headaches?
Frequent debilitating headaches can make patients feel loss of autonomy and control of their life, especially when the headaches begin to affect productivity and performance at work. About 20% of people who experience migraine on 14 days or fewer each month (episodic) may have depression and/or anxiety, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Anxiety itself can trigger headaches, causing a snowball-like phenomenon where anxiety and headaches feed from each other, making it difficult for patients to function normally in their daily life.
5. What questions should a patient anticipate from their doctor during diagnosis?
A detailed medical history report, which includes the character of the headache, the location, duration, frequency, and the severity of your symptoms. If you are able to identify particular triggers, like specific activities, meals, menstrual period, or if these occur during a specific time of the day or the month. Your medical provider would like to document the medications you have used in the past for headaches, particularly the dose, the frequency, and the levels of response to the medications. You should be able to recall your past medical history, since it will have a significant influence in the medications that your medical provider can prescribe for the treatment of headaches. Your medical provider would also like to be aware of important medical conditions in your family and if they also have history of headaches.
Know your body. Do not be timid about standing up for yourself and your health. To get the help you need, you have to make self-advocacy a crucial part of your healthcare journey.