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Cefaly -- a new device to stop a migraine in its tracks

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : March 13, 2014 7:19 PM IST

Migraine device

If you suffer from migraines, this news probably comes as a boon for you. The FDA (Food And Drug Administration) has recently announced its approval for a device that can prevent migraines! Called Cefaly, the device is the first transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device that is designed to be used before you are likely to suffer from a migraine.

Wondering what a migraine is? Here is a quick guide:

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A migraine is a condition which refers to severe headache that is commonly associated with signs like blind spots, nausea and/or vomiting. Migraine headaches are extremely painful and can last for hours or sometimes even for days together. Often seen due to certain genetic or environmental stimuli, a migraine is caused due to a constriction in the blood vessels leading to the brain subsequently leading to a headache.

While the 'triggers' of a migraine vary among people, there are certain other external factors like chemicals in foods, stress, loud noises, bright lights, poor sleep or sleep disorders that can trigger a migraine.

One characteristic of a migraine is that the patient will experience an intense, pulsating or throbbing pain that is confined to one half part of the person's head. Read more about the facts of a migraine.

What does Cefaly do? How does it work?

CefalyAccording to Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, 'Cefaly provides an alternative to medication for migraine prevention. This may help patients who cannot tolerate current migraine medications for preventing migraines or treating attacks.'

The small, battery-operated, portable device resembles a plastic headband. It's placed on top of the ears and worn across the forehead, delivering electrical impulses to stimulate the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is believed to contribute to migraine pain. According to the FDA, the device should be worn once daily for about 20 minutes and is intended for those 18 and older. (Read: 5 ways to fight migraine)

Cefaly is currently priced at 295 on and is currently not available in India.

Does it have any side-effects?

Although the FDA reported no serious side effects, in a patient satisfaction survey asking 2,313 Cefaly users in France and Belgium, some of the most common issues people faced were tingling sensations, sleepiness during device use, and subsequent headaches. Overall, when people were asked to rate the device, researchers found tht about 53 percent people were satisfied with Cefaly treatment and willing to purchase the device.

But if you don't have access to Cefaly, you have the following treatment options when it comes to migraines:

One of the best remedies for a migraine is to rest in a darkened room without any noise, this often reduces the severity of symptoms. Alternatively you could put a cold compress over your forehead or massage your scalp using a lot of pressure while putting pressure on your temples.

Apart from that there are two more approaches to treat it: Abortive and Preventive.

Abortive: The goal of this therapy is to stop it once it starts. Abortive drugs include the triptans, which specifically target serotonin. Nonprescription medicines that can help relieve migraine pain include aspirin, acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine combination, ibuprofen, naproxen and ketoprofen. People with more severe pain may need prescription medicine. Ergotamine can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine can also be helpful.

Preventive: This type of treatment is considered if migraines occur frequently, typically more than one migraine per week, or if migraine symptoms are severe. The goal is to lessen the frequency and severity of the migraine attacks. Preventive treatment medications include the following:

Medications used to treat high blood pressure: beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers

Antidepressants : amitriptyline, nortriptyline

Antiseizure medications: gabapentin, topiramate, valproic acid

In addition to migraine treatment the following drugs are mainly used for nausea related to migraine headaches:

  • Metoclopramide
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Promethazine

If medication is not what you would like to use, here is an effective natural remedy for the condition:

Feverfew is a popular herb for migraines. Several studies, but not all, support using feverfew for treating migraines. Long term homeopathic treatment can eradicate migraine headaches. Some of the homeopathic remedies which may be used under an expert homeopathy doctor are Glonoine, Belladonna, Sangunaria canadensis, Iris versicolor, Gelsemium, Nux vomica and so on. Some of the ayurvedic medicines are Suvarna Sutashekhara, Godanti Bhasma, Shadbindu Taila and Anu Taila.

How you can prevent a migraine attack:

1. Avoid all factors that have triggered a migraine attack in the past:

If you are a woman who has migraines just prior to her menstrual period, you should reduce salt in your diet. This helps to decrease water retention associated with precipitating attacks.

Avoid alcoholic beverages because it causes the blood vessels in the body to widen, which contributes to the migraine pain.

If stress is the trigger for your migraine, then relax and reduce the stress in your life. Regular exercise (walking, swimming, etc.) and relaxation techniques like yoga & meditation may help you.

Look for foods that might trigger an attack, such as cheese, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, MSG (a preservative in many foods), yeast, nuts, pickles, peanut butter, avocados, etc. Avoid eating these foods if one of them triggers headaches.

2. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Eat regularly and do not skip meals, maintain a regular sleep schedule, exercise regularly, quit smoking.

What is a migraine?

Migraine is a condition which refers to severe headache that is commonly associated with signs like blind spots, nausea and/or vomiting. Migraine headaches are extremely painful and can last for hours or sometimes even for days together. Migraine headaches are often caused by certain genetic as well as environmental factors. These factors cause blood vessels in the brain to constrict and trigger headache. Triggers of migraine headache can vary among people with migraine. Certain chemicals in foods may trigger migraine headache in some people while in other factors like stress, loud noise, bright lights and poor sleep or sleep disorders can trigger migraine headache. In most migraine sufferers the pain is usually confined to half part of the brain and is pulsating or throbbing. It may worsen with physical activity like climbing the stairs or brisk walking. There is no cure for migraine but the symptoms can be controlled with medicines or pain killers and by eliminating factors that trigger migraine. Migraine can be prevented to a great extent by exercising and alternative therapies like acupuncture. In this section you'll find detailed information on complications of migraine, how migraine causes depression, the impact of migraine on brain function and much more. You can also find tips to fight migraine,foods that you should stay away from and some amazing facts about migraine.

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With inputs from AFP, Image source: AFP

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