If There’s No Cure, Why Have Hope?
Over and over again, we have challenged claims of a “cure” for migraine. We explain carefully that without adequate funding, researchers have been unable to study migraine enough to determine its root cause, much less discover a cure.
What do we know about migraine?
Even with limited funding, devoted scientists have come a long way in the past 50 years. We know a lot about migraine.
- Migraine is a genetic, neurological disorder characterized by periodic attacks involving symptoms such as head pain, nausea & vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, odors.
- Migraine is more common in women, but men and children do get migraine, too.
- Migraine is a spectrum disorder. Some patients experience mild, infrequent symptoms managed by OTC medications. Many others are totally disabled by daily attacks with severe symptoms.
- Migraine attacks have triggers (sleep disruption, skipping meals, dehydration, strong odors, bright lights, loud noises, certain foods, etc.). Identification and avoidance of these triggers is an important part of migraine prevention.
- Vasodilation (once thought to be the cause of migraine) does not occur with all migraine attacks. If it does occur, it is a symptom of migraine and not the cause.
- A wave of electrical activity, called cortical spreading depression occurs at the start of a migraine attack.
- Migraine patients can experience symptoms of nausea, allodynia, and sensitivity to light, sound, and odors even between attacks of headache.
- A number of neurotransmitters are involved in the migraine process, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gaba
We still have a long way to go in understanding migraine
With more research funding, scientists will learn more and more about treating and preventing migraine. As they search for the root cause, ultimately a cure will be found. Despite the fact that migraine affects 1 in 4 families, it is still stigmatized and poorly understood by the general public and medical professionals alike. The situation is improving, but we still have a long way to go.
Migraine and calcitonin gene-related peptide
Despite this situation, the tireless, heroic efforts of compassionate researchers have yielded success. For about 20 years, scientists have been studying the possible link between migraine and a substance called calcitonin gene-related peptide. Here is what we know:
- Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is released early in the migraine process. When this substance is blocked, migraine attacks can be aborted and even prevented.
- Triptans work, in part, because they block CGRP.
- Botox has been shown to block CGRP, too.
- Based on the discovery of this CGRP-migraine link, four pharmaceutical companies are currently developing the first migraine-specific preventives in recorded history. If successful, they will be available to patients within the next 5 years.
Headache specialists are leading the charge
I’ve met some of the top headache doctors in the U.S. who are leading the efforts to find better treatments, the cause migraine, and hopefully a cure. These men and women are busting their tails to improve our lives. Our current suffering is at the forefront of their mind. It drives them to keep searching.
There isn’t a cure…YET. I may not live to see the day, but I know it is coming.
This is why I have hope.
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?