HeadWise HeadWise: Volume 2, Issue 2 - Page 8

reader mail You ask. We answer. he is using many medications already. Do you have any recommendations on how to convince any of his doctors to try oxygen treatments? My father’s headaches are completely debilitating. He often can’t even hold his head up. —Debra K. Tired of searching the Internet for answers? It’s time to learn from those in the know. In every issue of Head Wise, our experts respond to reader-submitted questions about migraine and headache disorders. BREATH OF FRESH AIR My father has a variety of medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. He has severe headaches almost every day. His doctors continue to prescribe more and more medications, which are not working. He has had every test imaginable to rule out any serious medical issue that may be causing the headaches. He has tried acupuncture and Botox , which provide minor ® I’m sorry to hear that your father is having so many health issues. Extensive testing does not usually lead to headache control, unless it reveals an abnormality on MRI scanning, a carotid ultrasound or a blood test known as an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (sed rate). If he is on many painkillers, he will continue to have headaches, overshadowed by medication overuse headaches (formerly called “rebound” headaches). According to the International Headache Society, medication overuse headaches occur when a migraineur is taking combination analgesics (e.g., Excedrin®) or narcotics for 10 or more days per month, for more than three months. Medication overuse headaches can also be caused by the use of simple analgesics (e.g., Tylenol®) for 15 or more days per month. Even Botox will not help people with medication overuse headaches. Episodic use of oxygen has been very helpful in cluster headaches but not of much value in other headache types. You need to begin with a proper diagnosis before considering treatment plans. If outpatient treatment fails, inpatient headache care is a viable option. It sounds like you are looking for a rational approach to your father’s debilitating headaches, and I strongly recommend that he see a board-certified headache specialist. His other illnesses may have an impact on medication choices, so a careful history and physical examination will be very important, as well as a careful assessment of other factors such as sleep apnea, depression and other conditions that might worsen a headache condition. —Edmund Messina, MD, Michigan Headache Clinic, East Lansing, Mich. temporary relief. I have read many articles on oxygen offering relief for chronic headache pain. For some reason none of his many doctors are willing to even attempt this therapy. They just continue to prescribe more medications and, as you can imagine, The National Headache Foundation has a list of headache specialists who may be of help. See www.headaches.org or call 888-NHF-5552. 6 HEAD WISE | Volume 2, Issue 2 • 2012