Headache


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Millions of people deal with headaches and migraines on a daily basis. What are your treatment options when the pain is chronic and alters your lifestyle? What type of specialist should you see? In this Patient Power program, Dr. Sylvia Lucas, joins Andrew to discuss treatment options for headaches and migraines, and answer many questions from live callers. Dr. Lucas is a neurologist and medical director of the Headache Center at the University of Washington Medical Center.

This program begins with Dr. Lucas helping to explain what a migraine headache is and the various treatments available, including pain medication, new prescription medicines, side effects of medications and other therapies for dealing with the pain. She answers questions from listeners discussing migraine auras, the relation to sleep apnea and headache, and headache pain that radiates throughout the body. Dr. Lucas provides information about migraine and headache triggers and what you can do to avoid these.

What if you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work or medication stops working? Dr. Lucas suggests seeking a specialist, like the Headache Center at the University of Washington Medical Center. You’ll hear about ways to identify the problem, such as blood tests, MRIs and CAT scans. She talks candidly, and hopefully, about the future of headache research. If you’ve been a long-time sufferer of headaches or migraines, this program is a useful resource in your journey to finding an appropriate therapy.

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Transcript

Andrew Schorr:

Good morning, Western Washington. We are on live on KVI Talk Radio 570. I'm Andrew Schorr here every Sunday to help you be a healthier person, help you and your loved ones be smarter patients. So if you're on the east side today, what have you got? You've got the 520 bridge being repaired. That gives you a headache. And if you are around the marathon that's running in Bellevue, my 15-year-old boy is helping out there with some other kids from Mercer Island, then that's good for the runners but slow for the traffic. That's a headache. But a lot of people get headaches just as part of their health. Could be what they're eating or drinking, could be, for women, their menstrual cycle, could be other reasons. Well, today on Patient Power live in the studio we have a top headache expert, not just locally but nationally, Dr. Sylvia Lucas, who is the director of the headache center at the University of Washington Medical Center. Sylvia is a neurologist and a good friend.

Thank you for being with us today, Sylvia.

Dr. Lucas:

Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew Schorr:

I'm really delighted for you to be here.

Now, we are going to be taking your calls live about headache, migraine. Millions of people have them or have had them during life, and this is the time for you to call in. So I want to give the phone numbers, then I want to talk about a couple other things too. But first of all, if you have questions about headache this is your chance to ask them live of a top headache expert.

I know I was at an event yesterday, Sylvia, and a woman I know, ran into her, said, Oh, we're going to talk about migraine and headache on Patient Power today, and she said, Oh, I get them and my son gets them. So I want to talk about kids and migraine too. And as I said menstrual migraine where a lot of study is going on.

Just a couple of other things in the news. Obviously we're watching the news and listening to stories about Hurricane Dennis, which, having lived in Florida, I know how frightening it can be. My folks were evacuated from south Florida one time, so certainly that's a scare. That goes back to something we were talking about last week. Sylvia, last week we had on a doctor who is an emergency room doc, and one of the things he stressed, and I know we've had other guests on before, have a list of your medications, your allergies, etc. None of us ever know when we're going to be in an emergency situation, and that provider needs to know a lot about you really fast. Certainly folks in London knew that this last week too. So remember to make that list. Carry it in your wallet or your purse. It's very important should you need medical care quickly.

Also I just wanted to mention one other thing too that was in the news this week, that was about the millions of people, particularly teenagers, but others, who are using prescription drugs improperly, really abusing them even for pain control, and that certainly relates to headaches, so we're going to talk about that.

Let's start with Dr. Sylvia Lucas, who is from the University of Washington Medical Center, which I'm happy to say is now a sustaining sponsor, along with Harborview, of Patient Power, so thanks to them. And you'll hear more thanks to them as we go along. We really appreciate their help.

Dr. Lucas, headache affects millions of people, right?

Dr. Lucas:

It certainly does, including me. But it affects probably about 28 million people in the United States, more people than who have arthritis, diabetes. So it's a big one. Typically it affects women three times as much as it affects men as well. And it really takes all ages. Usually people who have headache are between the ages of 20 to 40, but we can't forget kids. There can be kids as young as three years old who have migraine, and some people unfortunately continue to have migraines well into their 70s and 80s.

Andrew Schorr:

You and I were talking before the program about one of the bad actors for some people in headache and that is what we all in Western Washington imbibe a lot, and that's coffee. Caffeine can be a problem, can't it?

Dr. Lucas:

I hate to say it, especially in Seattle, but caffeine is a real double-edged sword because having too much caffeine can give someone headaches. Anybody will know that who drinks three, four, five cups of coffee a day and then stops, they might get a headache the next day. But caffeine, as many people note, has also been one of the ingredients in many medications for headaches such as Excedrin Migraine or some of the combination products, and it actually in small amounts can help people.

Andrew Schorr:

So it can help people, but sometimes people take more and more and more trying to get more help or get to a threshold that they feel stops the pain, but the caffeine in the medication or other caffeine they're drinking could create more of a problem.

Dr. Lucas:

Exactly.

Andrew Schorr:

Oh, my. So it can be sort of a sticky wicket. That's why people often get to your headache center at the UW because they either have tried to self treat it, right?

Dr. Lucas:

Right.

Andrew Schorr:

Or sometimes unfortunately headache is the problem that you go to the doctor for something else and you've been getting headaches but you don't mention it. A lot of women traditionally if they were the caregiver for another family member go for little Johnny for something else, and it's the, oh, by the way that they forgot to mention when they're going back to their car, right?

Dr. Lucas:

Right. People tend to minimize their pain. I think if women remembered what it was like to have a baby they probably wouldn't have a second one. So I think people do the same thing with headache. Once it's over you're hoping it will never come again. But most headaches can be very, very debilitating and disabling.

Andrew Schorr:

And people miss work.

Dr. Lucas:

Absolutely.

Andrew Schorr:

Certainly the people with migraine miss work. They get in bed, turn off the lights, pull down the shades.

Dr. Lucas:

Absolutely. People with moderate to severe headache can miss an average of about five days, between five and six days of work a year.

Andrew Schorr:

But it doesn't have to be that way for many people, does it?

Dr. Lucas:

No, there's treatment.

Andrew Schorr:

So we're going to be talking about that as we continue on the program today with Dr. Sylvia Lukas, who is the director of the headache center at the University of Washington Medical Center and a top specialist, a neurologist who specializes in the treatment of headache. The news as we continue during the program is for you or the people you love, they don't have to suffer. But it's a matter of getting the right care, whether it's a medication or other things you can do as well. So please call in at 206-421-5757. We'll be right back with a lot more of Andrew Schorr's Patient Power on KVI 570 talk radio.

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