Devices Used to Treat Migraines

If you think that you are stuck with migraine headaches, it might be time to think again.

Not all adults are able to tolerate medications used to treat migraines, but a prescription device may be able to help. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a pair of device for marketing, and they are the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device and the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator.

Clinical studies have shown that both devices are effective treatments, and that they have limited side effects or risks when used as instructed.

Intense throbbing pain in a specific area of the head, as well as light sensitivity and nausea are common symptoms of a migraine headache. If left untreated, a migraine can last as long as 72 hours at a time.

Statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that about 37 million (12%) of Americans suffer from migraines. Both children and adults can be affected, but females are 3 times more likely than males to have a migraine. Roughly 18% of women have experienced a migraine headache.

Of the overall number of migraine sufferers, about one-third also experience visual disturbances (blind spots, flashing lights, or spot) at the onset of a migraine.

The Devices that Treat Migraines

Michael Hoffmann, a biomedical engineer with the FDA, explained that these types of devices are necessary, mostly because anti-migraine medications often come with side effects that many patients simply cannot handle.

The Cerena device is put into use when a migraine sufferer feels as though a headache is about to begin. This was the first such device to be granted marketing approval by the FDA, as it has proven effective in relieving migraine pain.

When using the Cerena device, the patient is required to hold the unit against the back of their head. A button on the device is pressed down for less than a second, after which it releases a magnetic pulse used to stimulate the occipital cortex of the brain.

The Cerena device uses Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) technology, which has been studied for a while now, but which has just recently been approved for certain clinical uses. Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) uses electrical nerve stimulation passed through the skin, and is the first such device to be granted FDA approval. Patients over the age of 18 use the device to prevent the onset of migraine headaches.

Patients who use Cefaly on a daily basis have been found to experience fewer days where they experience a migraine headache. TENS technology was previously used for the treatment of general pain, but is now authorized as a preventative device for migraine sufferers.





How to Treat Migraine Headaches?

Migraine headache is one of the most common problems seen in the emergency department and in the doctor’s office. It is a type of headache that appears to originate in the blood vessels of the head.

Migraine headache typically lasts from 4-72 hours or longer without headache treatment and vary in frequency from one per week to one per year. Migraine headache affects about 15% of the population. Three times as many women as men have migraine headache. Over 80% of people with migraine headache have other members in the family who have migraines.

Different types of migraine headache are:

  • Common migraine headache accounts for 80% of migraines. There is “aura” before a common migraine. An aura is a symptom that appears before the headache. Most often an aura is a visual disturbance (seeing outlines of lights or jagged light images).
  • Classic migraine headache presents with an aura and is usually much more severe than common migraine. Headache treatment may be required in this case.
  • Status migrainous headache is a persistent migraine that does not go away without headache treatment

A staggering range of potential migraine headache treatment exists. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be advised to take over-the-counter analgesics, prescription headache treatment medications designed to quickly relieve symptoms, or even long-term headache treatment medication to prevent headaches from developing


Treating Migraines

You may think that there’s no options for treating your migraines, but you don’t have to give up now.

In the last year the FDA has provide new options for adults that have migraines as they have allowed the marketing of two new prescription devices that can treat these severe headaches. For those that have difficulty with regular medications and drugs there’s the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device as well as the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator. In clinical studies both of the devices have been shown to pose minimal risks and be effective in treating migraines when used in accordance with their labeling.

Biomedical engineer with the FDA Michael Hoffmann says that there’s a large need for these types of devices because many anti-migraine drugs have side effects which many patients can’t tolerate.

Many drugs have systemic side effects since they are injected and then metabolized. The side effects of the drug can vary person to person. Many patients are looking for alternative migraine treatments because of these side effects. The new devices don’t have the same type of side effects and may be tolerated more by patients.

Drug Limitations

Throbbing pain as well as intense pulsing in one area are characteristics of migraine headaches. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light or sound as well as nausea or vomiting. A migraine may last around 4-72 hours when it’s not treated. NIH or the National Institutes of Health say that 12 percent of Americans or around 37 million people have some sort of migraine. The headaches are debilitating and can impact children as well as adults. Women are three times more likely to get them than men. About 18 percent of women have some type of migraine.

There are effective drug treatments for migraines, but there are side effects associated with those drugs. There are medical devices which aim to provide alternative treatments with side effects that are tolerable and fewer in nature.

A neurologist at the FDA, Eric Bastings, M.D., says that the drugs are effective, but not everyone can take them. You can feel dizzy, drowsy or tired when you take them. Some of them may impact your ability to think clearly. Some of the migraine drugs cause birth defects so they are unsuitable for pregnant women. The medical devices also have some limitations too and the safety of the Cerena and the Cefaly devices aren’t proven to be safe for pregnant women to use.

For people that have severe or frequent migraines they can use medications such as propranolol which is a beta blocker. A beta blocker will slow the heart rate and are used to treat heart conditions. If a patient has lung problems, a slow heart rate or asthma they can’t use the beta blockers.

Divalproex sodium and topiramate are antiepileptic drugs which can help people that have migraines. These are seizure medications and can help to reduce the number of migraines when they are taken on a regular basis, but they don’t usually eliminate the instances of migraines.

Someone with a migraine is often undertreated and underdiagnosed. Patients need to tell their health care providers about their headaches and might need to see a migraine specialist if they don’t get the relief that they seek. Doctors need to be aware of the alternative treatments of migraines as well as the regular drugs that can treat these severe headaches.