Migraines – Treatment with Lidocaine
Migraines are a debilitating condition that affects 38 million people in the U.S. – nearly one in every four households has someone who suffers with them. They tend to run in families and are most common in people between the ages of 25 and 55.
In addition to the excruciating headaches, migraines often trigger neurological symptoms that may include visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. For some people, the symptoms may precede the headache. Attacks can last between four and 72 hours.
The exact cause of migraines has yet to be discovered, but researchers believe genetics and environmental factors play a role. Migraines may be triggered by changes in the brainstem and the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway to the brain. They may also be sparked by imbalances in brain chemicals.
Other factors that may trigger migraines:
- Hormonal changes in women
- Foods such as aged cheeses and salty and processed food
- Skipping meals or fasting
- Alcohol – especially wine
- Highly caffeinated beverages
- Sensory stimuli such as bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds and unusual smells
- Changes in sleep pattern – missing or getting too much sleep
- Jet lag
Medications, whether in pill or infusion form, have long been the standard of care for migraines. Often, a combination of medications is used to treat the condition. Recently, however, a new minimally invasive procedure has been found to have long-lasting effects in relieving or eliminating migraine symptoms.
Holy Name Medical Center’s Interventional Radiologists use lidocaine, a numbing medication, to block sensation in a bundle of nerves behind the nose that is associated with migraines. Physicians use imaging to guide a very small catheter through the nasal passages to the cluster of nerves called the sphenopalatine ganglion and deliver the medication.
Numbing the nerve bundle seems to act like a reset button on the migraine circuitry, relieving the symptoms in most patients almost immediately. The procedure takes only minutes and patients can resume their daily activities the same day.
Sphenopalatine ganglion blocks are not a cure for migraines. Like other treatments for the condition, they address the symptoms.
- Some patients report immediate relief.
- The procedure can be repeated if necessary.
- It has a low risk of complications and fast recovery.