Thirty five million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, according to the The Migraine Institute.

DocWire News recently spoke with Dr. Jennifer McVige, who is board certified in Pediatric Neurology, and Pediatric Headache and Neuroimaging, to gain a better understanding of this opt debilitating condition that millions of people around the world suffer from. We discussed the causes of migraines, treatments, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted migraine sufferers.

DocWire News: What exactly triggers migraines and what are the symptoms people experience?

Dr. Jennifer McVige: The triggers are very specific to the individual. So some of the common triggers that people have are poor sleep, dietary changes such as the too much caffeine or stopping caffeine abruptly, sometimes MSG such as anything that’s processed, those kinds of process foods, nitrates, lunch meat, pepperoni, salami, bacon, hotdogs, all those summer foods. They can trigger it. Not drinking enough water, not sleeping enough or sleeping too much and not eating anything for breakfast. Sometimes that can actually trigger somebody.

DocWire News: What are the most effective treatment options for migraines?

Dr. Jennifer McVige: So there’s many treatments. We divide treatments into preventative and then rescue medications and the treatments. And so there’s medication therapy, but there’s also alternative therapies too. You don’t have to rely on just pharmaceutical based medications, there’s herbals, there’s also devices as well so that you don’t actually have to ingest something either. There’s also naturopathic things that we can do to treat such as massage therapies and acupuncture and those kinds of things. So the treatments are limitless, but over the past few years there’s been an explosion of just different types of treatments and different alternatives for people, especially in the world of devices. So that’s been a real welcome to the world of migraine, especially with the pediatric population, the adolescents. There haven’t been as many tools to treat people with migraine who are in the adolescent age range either. So recently there’s been some new progress in that area, especially in the device world.

DocWire News: How big an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on migraine sufferers?

Dr. Jennifer McVige: It’s been interesting because I have kind of two camps. I have those patients that really enjoyed working from home and actually did a little bit better because they didn’t have all the light sensitivity, sound sensitivity at work, the commotion and they did real well. And then I have the polar opposite. I have those individuals that really are people persons. I don’t know how to say that. And they really struggled with that social aspect of not being around individuals and had a little bit of anxiety and depression coupled with their headache. And so that’s been challenging. The other thing that’s been hard is that people haven’t been able to make it to their appointments initially, if they thought they were exposed or if they had COVID. We’ve also been seeing a lot of patients with headaches post COVID. That’s a new thing for us, but these persistent migrainous type headaches that have happened since patients have had the infection, not as many people post vaccine, but much more like post COVID infection, long, drawn out migrainous type headaches now.

DocWire News: What can we expect from migraine treatments in the coming years?

Dr. Jennifer McVige: I mean, I think things are getting incredibly innovative. For example, there’s a new device on the market from Theranica called Nerivio. And this is a device that is a worn device. It’s device that is on the arm and it’s a neuromodulation device. So it basically allows the person to put the device on when they have a migraine. So it’s acute rescue therapy. They put it on when they have a migraine, they wear the device for 45 minutes, and then they take it off when the time is over. And it modifies the pain signals within the body. So interesting and an alternative to the oral medication therapy, the pharmaceutical therapy. So as I said previously, adolescents have a really hard time sometimes taking a pill. They don’t swallow pills. Some of my adults don’t swallow pills either. And some people, when they get sick, they really don’t feel comfortable swallowing something.

And so it’s nice to have alternatives. So I think what’s happening in the industry is we’re finding ways around trying to deliver the therapy and trying to get people healthy and well without exposing them to negative side effects. So for example, the device doesn’t have those negative side effects of GI gastric issues and it doesn’t go through the gastric system.

DocWire News: Closing thoughts?

Dr. Jennifer McVige: I just thank you so much for bringing awareness to migraine. It is very important. I, myself am a migraine suffer and went into this because I started to have migraines after my second child and my girls suffer and I watch kids, adolescents, and adults struggle all the time. And people think it’s just a headache and it really isn’t. It can be incredibly debilitating and take away someone’s job. It can keep them not being able to go to school. So I’m grateful for shedding some light on this very debilitating illness and disease state that is incredibly prevalent.