Headache disorders are one of the top reasons for doctors’ visits. According to WHO, these conditions affect up to three-quarters of adults in the world.Some of the most common types include tension headaches, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches. Migraines are common as well. In the United States alone, they affect more than 39 million individuals. Do you suffer from migraines? Wondering whether or not you should see a neurosurgeon? If so, you’re on the right page.We’ll be going over everything that you need to know below. So make sure to read the rest of the post!
What Are Migraines?
Migraine is a neurological condition that causes debilitating headaches. Generally speaking, there are two main categories—those with aura and those without aura.While these headaches can occur in anyone, they’re more likely to affect women than men. Depending on the individual, the pain can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Up to 60% of individuals will experience symptoms before the headache itself. Known as the prodrome stage, it can lead to fatigue, irritability, or neck stiffness.From there, around one-third of individuals will experience an aura. For example, they may see shapes, bright spots, light flashes. In some cases, they might also lose their vision temporarily.The next stage is the attack stage. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, throbbing head pain (on one or both sides), and increased sensitivity to light and sound. Generally speaking, the pain will be made worse by movement.Following the attack phase, an individual will enter the postdrome phase. The fourth and final stage, it comes after the pain has subsided. As it is, it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown. However, researchers have identified possible triggers that can lead to the condition.Some of the most common migraine triggers include bright lights, hormone changes, loud sounds, intense physical activity, strong smells, and lack of sleep. Certain foods such as alcohol or caffeine can also contribute to the condition.Given all the possibilities, your doctor may ask you to keep a migraine diary. Not only will it allow you to track your headaches but it’ll also help you identify your triggers. In doing so, you’ll be able to avoid them.
When to Call a Neurosurgeon
There’s nothing wrong with going to the doctor if you have a migraine. Depending on the severity, however, you may wish to see a neurosurgeon.What’s a neurosurgeon? They’re a doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system. Given that, they’re often the go-to-specialists for migraines and headaches.Here are a few signs that it’s time to make an appointment with a neurosurgeon:
- Your headaches are severe enough to interfere with your job or family life
- You experience more than 15 headaches per month
- You take over-the-counter medications (e.g. NSAIDs) often
- You’re experiencing changes in vision
- You’ve had a seizure with your headaches
Tests Your Neurosurgeon May Perform
The neurosurgeon will begin by taking a medical history. From there, they may choose to perform certain tests.
An EEG is a test that records the electrical signals of the brain. It’s helpful in diagnosing brain disorders such as epilepsy and stroke.Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order one to look for signs of seizures as the symptoms made be similar to those of migraines.
An MRI scan uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and blood vessels. MRI scans help doctors diagnose tumors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, infections, and other brain and nervous system (neurological) conditions.
In some cases, your doctor may order lab tests such as a blood test or a spinal tap. Put it simply, they’re used to determine whether or not you have any other medical conditions.For example, both diabetes and thyroid problems can contribute to migraine headaches.
How a Neurosurgeon Treats Migraines?
There are a number of things they can do to treat your migraines. What sets them apart from family doctors? They’re able to perform surgical procedures that no one else is able to do.
Nerve blocks are injections that are used to abort headaches. More specifically, the doctor will inject anesthetic agents into the base of the skull.By blocking the occipital nerve, they’ll be able to reduce the pain. A temporary treatment, the procedure can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.Well tolerated, most individuals will experience no side effects.
Neurosurgeons are able to prescribe preventative and abortive medications. The former will reduce the frequency and severity of the migraines whereas the latter will stop a migraine attack.More often than not, patients will require both types as part of their treatment plan.
Nerve Decompression Surgery
This procedure reduces pressure on the nerves around the skull, which helps to relieve migraine pain. Generally speaking, it’s reserved for those with chronic daily headaches that do not respond to medications.
Treating Your Migraines
As you can see, there are several reasons why you want to see a neurosurgeon for your migraines. Why live with chronic headaches when you can do something about it, right?Looking for a neurosurgeon in Central New York? Feel free to contact us to set up an appointment!