Do Your Migraines Require Medical Attention?

Dec 13, 2023
If you suffer from migraines, you know that every time one starts to emerge, it has the power to stop you in your tracks for days. But do you know when a migraine warrants medical attention? Find out here.

A migraine is much more than a typical headache: It’s a neurological disorder that can cause pounding head pain, extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms.   

A migraine episode may last a few hours or a few days. If — like hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world — you suffer from periodic migraines, you know that every time one starts to emerge, it has the power to stop you in your tracks. 

 While you’ve probably learned how to manage the problem effectively at home, you may not know what to do when an especially bad migraine hits. At New England Institute for Neurology and Headache in Stamford, Connecticut, you can access immediate treatment for debilitating migraine symptoms at our NeuroFast Drop-in Headache Center. 

Let’s explore signs that your migraine may require medical attention and explain what you can expect when you arrive at our center. 

It’s helpful to know your “baseline migraine”

When you live with migraine headaches, you may notice certain patterns related to their onset, development, and duration. For example, your migraines may typically occur in the morning or late afternoon, or they may emerge when prompted by specific triggers — like stress, weather changes, or too much caffeine.   

You may also have a routine set of migraine symptoms that are normal for you, such as nausea and vomiting or instant sensitivity to light, strong smells, or loud sounds. Knowing what your “baseline migraine” is like can help you recognize when you’re having a migraine that requires medical attention. 

When to visit our team for a migraine

If you’re in the midst of a severe migraine episode that’s progressing or lingering in a way that’s atypical for you, we can help. Seek treatment at our NeuroFast Drop-in Headache Center when:  

  • Your usual medications don’t bring relief as normal
  • You experience a level of pain you haven’t felt before
  • You develop sudden head pain that peaks at once

 We also want to see you if you have severe pain or experience new symptoms you’ve never had before, such as vision changes or trouble speaking — or if it feels like you’re having the worst migraine of your life, either because of abnormally intense pain severity, unusually persistent symptom duration, or both. 

Prompt treatment for severe migraine symptoms

When you arrive at our Headache Center with a severe migraine, we escort you to a dark, quiet suite. After asking about your symptoms, going over any medications or supplements you’ve taken recently, and finding out if you’ve used any migraine treatments, we may start intravenous (IV) treatment, giving you fluids and anti-migraine medication. 

Known as a “migraine cocktail,” this fast-acting IV infusion combines various medications to help break up a headache cycle that hasn’t responded to your usual at-home treatment. Medications that might be included in a migraine cocktail include:

  • Antiemetics to relieve nausea and vomiting
  • IV steroids to break a long-lasting migraine attack  
  • Ergot alkaloids to relieve throbbing head pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Magnesium to prevent migraine recurrence 

We typically turn to a migraine cocktail when you haven’t responded to over-the-counter medications or if your migraine has lasted longer than 72 hours, a condition known as “status migrainosus.”

Depending on your needs, you might also get a nerve block, neurostimulation, or a massage; we may also prescribe a combination of medications for you to continue taking at home.

When a headache may be a serious emergency

Most intense headaches aren’t a life-threatening emergency, but sometimes, a severe migraine may be indicative of a more serious issue. As a migraine sufferer, it’s important to spot the “red flags” that warrant immediate attention at your nearest emergency room (ER). This includes having a migraine that occurs with neurological symptoms like:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • Sudden balance problems; dizziness; confusion
  • Trouble speaking or forming sentences; slurred speech 
  • Abnormal vision changes or sudden loss of vision 

Having a history of stroke or a chronic health condition like heart, kidney, or liver disease should also prompt you to be extra cautious when it comes to your migraines, as severe or unusual headache pain may indicate a life-threatening change in your condition. 

Following up after your severe migraine episode 

After a severe migraine episode that warrants medical attention, schedule a follow-up visit with our team. We can help you develop a migraine rescue plan to keep you out of the emergency room and a migraine prevention plan to help reduce episode frequency and severity.  

Are you ready to gain the upper hand over migraine pain? We can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at New England Institute for Neurology and Headache in Stamford, Connecticut, today.