Botox was licensed for use to treat chronic migraine headaches 8 years ago. To mark Migraine Awareness Week, we’re taking a look at what a migraine is and how botox can help to alleviate the symptoms.
A brief history of migraines
With migraine-like symptoms being described in Mesopotamian poetry as far back as 3000BC, migraines appear to be one of the oldest medical conditions known to man.
In 400BC Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, wrote about the headache and distorted vision, or ‘aura’, that often accompanies a migraine.
Aretaeus of Cappadocia (a Greek physician born c.81AD) is generally accepted as the first medic to fully identify migraines when he detailed a combination of migraine symptoms and the periods of wellness between attacks.
The word ‘migraine’ originates with Galenus of Pergamon (131 to 201AD) who distinguished migraines from other forms of headaches, calling them “hemicrania” (“half the head”). In De Compositione Medicamentorum Secundum Locos he describes migraines as:
“…a painful disorder affecting approximately one half of the head, either the right or left side, and which extends along the length of the longitudinal suture…It is caused by the ascent of vapours, either excessive in amount or too hot, or too cold.”
Leaping forward into the era of modern medicine, the first drugs to specifically manage migraines were developed in the 1930s with the triptan medication in use today becoming available in the 1990s.
What does a migraine feel like?
“My migraines come on roughly every two weeks. I first got one aged 17, it was an unbearable pain over my left eye. Migraine attacks have been a part of my life for 23 years. They have had a significant impact on everything from my ability to work, to my relationships and participation in social events.”
Jess, migraine sufferer
A severe headache is the best known symptom of a migraine, however it’s by no means the only one and, in some cases, sufferers won’t experience a headache at all.
Other symptoms can include distorted vision (often an ‘aura’ or flashing lights), a heightened sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, nausea, and numbness or pins and needs in the limbs.
It is said that Vincent Van Gogh suffered migraines and that the aura symptoms influenced some of his works.
The symptoms might pass in a few hours but in some cases they can last up to three days. In between bouts sufferers generally feel fine.
Seek emergency help if…
It’s important to note that if you have migraine-like symptoms which are accompanied by any of the following then you should seek immediate medical assistance:
- Paralysis or weakness in your arm/s or face.
- Difficulty speaking, for example garbling or slurring.
- An agonizing headache which is unlike anything you have had before.
- A headache accompanied by a fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, double vision and a rash.
What causes a migraine?
Part of the problem in treating migraines is that we don’t fully understand what they are. Migraines appear to be the result of changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain, however what causes these changes is less clear.
It’s thought that genetics may be a factor (as migraines can run in families) and that they are influenced by lifestyle, for example stress, tiredness, caffeine, hunger and alcohol can be triggers for an attack. For women the onset of menstruation can also cause migraines to start.
Sufferers are often encouraged to keep a ‘migraine diary’ to help narrow down the triggers so that lifestyle changes can be made to reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks.
How botox can help
“After the consultation with Dr Beazleigh, I decided to try Botox as a form of treatment and stop taking the Propranolol. I am extremely pleased to say that it has completely stopped any form of migraines and has overwhelmingly changed my life.
I would (and do) recommend to anyone I meet that suffers with migraines to go and see Dr Beazleigh to discuss Botox treatment. I could not be any more pleased with the results. It’s absolutely amazing!!”
JW of Surrey
In 2010 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency licensed the botulinum toxin A (botox) for use in treating chronic migraine headaches. This followed on from various studies, starting in the 1990s, which demonstrated that around 70% of patients found that with botox the number of headaches they suffered was halved.
How botox relieves migraines isn’t fully understood. The current thinking is that it blocks certain pain pathways which cause the migraine headaches.
The treatment consists of small botox injections into the head, neck and shoulders which are repeated every 12 weeks. It can take two or three rounds of treatment before improvements are noticeable.
Our expert team of doctors and nurses provide botox treatment for migraine headaches at our London Harley Street, Huntingdon, Sevenoaks, Hove, Richmond, Peterborough and Reading clinics. Contact us today to book your free consultation to find out if botox could help your migraines.
You should also ensure that you regularly discuss your migraine symptoms with your doctor to ensure that you’re receiving all other appropriate treatments, in addition to the botox. Further information on migraines can be found through the Migraine Trust, Migraine Action and National Migraine Centre charities.