I just left my headache specialist’s office and have more hope for the future of migraine treatment than I have ever had – not just for myself, but for all of us. There are exciting treatments on the horizon, like transcranial magnetic stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation and monoclonal antibodies (the CGRP drugs), but most of my hope comes from something my headache specialist mentioned offhand at the end of my appointment: Neurologists worldwide are becoming increasingly interested in treating migraine.
That’s right, there is growing interest among neurologists throughout the world who want to treat patients with migraine. My headache specialist described general neurologists who have spent their careers treating a wide variety of neurological disorders other than migraine who are now seeing migraineurs as half their patients. The switch is partly because of those exciting treatments I mentioned above as well as Botox and Topamax.
It got me thinking. Maybe a reason there have been so few doctors treating migraine and headache is because there haven’t been very good treatments. If you were in medical school and choosing a specialty, would you want to enter a field where you had to tell so many patients, “Sorry, I can’t help you,” while also knowing there were few treatments in development and next to no research funding to investigate the physiological mechanisms of the disorder? Beyond those with a personal interest, I expect most people choosing that work would have to thrive on challenge.
Thankfully, some people fit that bill. They’re the doctors I have relied on so heavily. They’re the ones who have brought the field to a place where the future is beginning to brighten. It isn’t perfect, of course, and much work remains. Migraine research continues to be underfunded and treatments options are relatively sparse, even with the new ones in the pipeline, which could fizzle out before they get to patients.
Still, I like how the pieces add up:
the research that’s in progress
genetic discoveries about migraine
an increase in academic headache centers in the U.S.
more doctors knowledgeable enough to treat migraine patients successfully
fundraising for research
hope many more migraine patients will find relief in the near future
And I hope that an increased interest in migraine means more attention for all headache disorders. Migraineurs may be the majority, but we’re not the only ones who know what it’s like to have our lives turned upside down by a poorly understood illness with limited treatment options. In fact, we’re better off on those fronts than people with many other headache disorders.