Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Headaches From Hell | Print Article |

How Migraines Affect the Brain and Why Women Suffer More

Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert


Carolyn Bernstein was sitting in a lecture hall one day during her second year at Boston University Medical School when her head began to pound and throb. She became dizzy and disoriented and felt so weak she thought she would faint. Bernstein managed to leave class and get home, where she collapsed into bed. She was suffering from her first migraine and she soon found out that there was no easy treatment. Bernstein says migraineurs—people who get migraines—are too often treated with condescension by doctors who tell them to "just deal with it."

Her experience led her to specialize in migraines. In addition to being on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, she also runs the Women's Headache Center in Cambridge, Mass. Unfortunately, such centers are rare and most migraineurs still struggle to find help. Bernstein says that's why she wrote her new book, "The Migraine Brain" (Free Press, 2008). Each migraineur's experiences are unique, Bernstein says. Some have attacks that last only a few hours; others can be in pain for days. Women are more likely to get migraines than men, for reasons doctors still don't fully understand. Migraines can't be cured, only treated with a range of medication and lifestyle changes. "I want to encourage people to seek help and not feel alone," Bernstein says. We asked Bernstein for a quick rundown on the science of migraines.


Excerpt from "The Migraine Brain":

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