“Like a miracle”Published 10:31am Wednesday, November 4, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
At the onset of a migraine, the pain can be absolutely debilitating. Experiencing one can leave the senses vulnerable to light, to sound, to touch.
According to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF) for research and education, migraines plague one in four households in America, 36 million (12 percent) of the population.
There is no cure – only treatment and now, one local doctor is doing what he can to break the hold migraines have on those who suffer from them – as quickly as possible.
Dr. Colin Elliott describes a migraine as “the most common type” of headache, adding that they are often “under treated and under diagnosed.”
Having practiced medicine for the past 21 years, and currently running his practice out of his father’s old office on Front Street, Elliott said he has treated patients suffering from the headaches with the standard, widely used medications such as Treximet and Zomig.
Some patients used to be, up until about a couple of decades ago, treated by going to a hospital to be administered a dose of Demerol.
The introduction of Imitrex, an injectable medication “was just considered a miracle,” he said in decreasing the pain and breaking up the headache.
But now, Elliott said he’s begun administering a new form of treatment a simple shot of magnesium to break up the headache and give his patient’s relief.
It’s a practice he’s seen done elsewhere including on the East Coast.
For migraine sufferers, Elliott outlined three primary symptoms which include pain that causes sickness severe enough that one can’t go to work or school, nausea caused by light or sound and the headache occurring predominately on one side of the head.
According to the AMF, there are a set of stages to the headache, the first being the “premonitory phase” with symptoms such as severe fatigue, sensitivity to light or sound, neck pain.
The second or “aura phase” taking place at the onset of the headache can consist of “seeing flashing lights, squiggly lines or losing vision in small areas of the visual field,” followed by “the headache phase,” which can be of “moderate or severe intensity” pain.
Fatigue, malaise, pain and difficulty concentrating are part of the “post headache phase.”
Attacks can plague those who sufferer from migraines anywhere from 12 hours to days, Elliott said. He added that the headaches can lead to temporary blindness and even increase the chances of a stroke.
“Triggers can be weather, red wine, certain kinds of cheese, hormones,” among others.
Elliott estimated that he has treated 100 patients at his Buchanan office who suffer from migraines. While the AMF states migraines are three times more common in women, Elliott expects that many men suffer from them as well, but being less likely to see a doctor may assume their headaches are merely sinus related.
And children are susceptible to the headaches as well.
“The magnesium pushes calcium off of the protein that triggers a migraine,” Elliott said. As the medicine is administered, he said patients feel a hot flash and the pain is broken in less than a minute.
“It felt very warm and soothing and then it just as gone it was like a miracle,” said Deborah Seager, a patient of Elliott’s who’d suffers from migraines.
“I used to suffer from migraines all the time, but it’s getting better,” she said.
The magnesium is not just a treatment but a preventative measure – one of the reasons Elliott champions it so much.
He treats patients with the singular injection of magnesium and then prescribes a low dose of Topamax. In some cases, Elliott said he’ll also talk with patients about taking oral magnesium which he said can further prevent the occurrence of the headaches.
“There’s a simple way to break a migraine and a simple way to prevent them,” he said. “This works quickly, it works cheaply.”
He’s seen an estimated 25 patients who have been given the magnesium respond well to the treatment.
“The dramatic affect of breaking the headache makes them feel really good,” Elliott said. “But what I’m doing to prevent it is better.”
In addition to the medication, Elliott stresses the importance of a good sleep cycle and says prevention is key.
Some medications can also cause problems and trigger the headaches – something he said patients should discuss with their pharmacist or doctor. And he said when it comes to children under the age of 12, the course of action changes completely.
For those who aren’t sure whether or not their pain is more than just the standard headache, Elliott said one telling sign is “if you’re so sick you can’t get out of bed.”
Elliott said that patients would pay around the cost of a regular visit for the magnesium shot if needed, considerably less than other treatments and his office bills most insurances. For questions, call 695-4539.
The American Migraine Foundation for Research and Education has studied the affects of migraines in the country.
• Migraines cost the U.S. more than $20 billion each year in direct medical expenses and indirect expenses such as missed work or lost productivity
• Those with migraines are more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, other pain conditions and fatigue
• Three percent of the population of migraine suffers experience chronic migraine, the presence of at least 15 days of headache each month for at least six months