What is Migraine Prophylaxis?

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  • Written By: Christina Whyte
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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Migraine prophylaxis means migraine prevention. For people who rarely experience migraines, treating the symptoms through methods like pain medication and resting in a dark quiet room may be sufficient. People with chronic migraines, however, may require migraine prophylaxis to maintain a good quality of life. There are many different tools available to help people prevent migraines, both through lifestyle modification and through drug therapy. A combination of prevention methods may be the most useful course of action for people with severe and recurrent migraines.

Enlargement of blood vessels around the brain, which causes the release of chemicals that inflame and further enlarge the blood vessels, is the primary cause of migraines. This can be extremely painful, and often results in other symptoms besides pain such as nausea, diarrhea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine sufferers may be able to continue daily life activities during an attack, or may be totally debilitated.


One of the most important tools for migraine prophylaxis is a migraine diary. This is a notebook, document file, or other record of a person's headaches and precipitating factors, such as food consumption and menstrual cycle. For some people, migraines are caused by something as simple as a food reaction, and can be nearly eliminated by strictly avoiding that food. A migraine diary can also help patients find relationships that are not as straightforward: for example, that drinking red wine only causes migraines at a certain time in a woman's menstrual cycle, or that being out in the sun for a long time combined with caffeine usually leads to a migraine for a particular person. The causes of migraine can be very subtle and unique, and it may take time and effort to determine one's particular triggers.

Based on the information in the migraine diary, there are many different lifestyle modifications that can be made to reduce migraine frequency and severity. People can eliminate foods or food groups systematically and record the results, keep track of the weather, keep track of stress levels before a migraine, or note situations in which migraines are more common for them such as lack of sleep or food, exposure to fragrances, bright lights, or noise. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise plan, stress level, and sleep cycle is beneficial for migraine prophylaxis for all migraine sufferers.

Medication is another option for migraine prophylaxis for people with recurrent migraines. Drugs such as beta-blockers, tri-cyclic antidepressants, anti-serotonin medications, calcium channel blockers, and anti-convulsants have all demonstrated effectiveness in migraine prophylaxis when taken daily. These medications should always be prescribed by a doctor, since they are not appropriate for everyone and can have serious side effects. Patients should be diagnosed with frequent moderate to severe headaches that interfere with daily life before being considered for prophylactic drug therapy.



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