Did you know that migraines aren't over once the attack is over? Each episode actually changes the structure of your brain. In this issue, we look at those changes, and why preventing migraines is vital. We also look at ways to prevent another hazard - getting bitten by virus-carrying mosquitoes - without the migraines that DEET bug repellent often triggers. Plus, we have a travel checklist for you: what to carry along to keep migraines from ruining your vacation.

As always, thank you for suggesting ideas for articles and sharing comments about the newsletter and your own experiences. We enjoy hearing from you and we value your inputs very much.

Tina Sanders

Linpharma Customer Education


How Migraines Change Your Brain

We know that migraines inflict pain and disrupt daily life. But that’s not all they do. A growing number of studies show that each attack actually changes our brains. Let’s look closer.

Advanced imaging technology is making it possible to study the brain in new ways. This imaging has revealed differences between the brains of people who suffer migraines and those who don’t. Much of the research has focused on a possible link between migraines and stroke risk (which we’ll look at in an upcoming newsletter). But research has also revealed structural differences in the brain that seem to increase as migraine attacks occur over time.

An overly excitable brain

To summarize years of research in the very simplest terms, repeated migraine attacks seem to make the brain overly sensitive to stimuli. For instance, a level of pain that most people would experience as minor might feel intense to a person who suffers from migraines.

From our sensory perceptions and emotions to memory, cognition and hormone production, virtually every area of the brain seems to be vulnerable to structural changes caused by migraine attacks. In the hypothalamus, for example, over-sensitivity to stimuli can trigger nausea and vomiting, nasal congestion, cravings, thirst, tiredness and other reactions commonly associated with migraines.

With each attack, the brain gets even more sensitive

Structural changes in the brain seem to progress over time. The more migraines you have and the more intense they are, the more sensitive your brain’s “circuits” become. This can change how you experience the world (physically and emotionally) all the time—not just during migraine attacks.

You might, for example, find yourself unable to tolerate bright lights. The way you experience all pain—not just migraines—might intensify.

Good News

While our brains get more and more sensitized with each migraine attack, it doesn’t appear that migraine sufferers’ brains age faster or that migraines are linked with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Still, no one wants repeated migraine attacks to pave the way to functional changes that amplify stress, intensify pain and make it hard to concentrate. The good news here is that many doctors, including Dr. Richard Lipton—a leading migraine researcher—speculate that reducing the frequency or severity of migraines will probably reverse some of these structural changes in the brain.

The immediate takeaway? It’s something we already know: preventing migraines is critical for both quality of life now and better health down the road.

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Summer Travel Kit for Migraine Sufferers

Migraines are bad. Migraines that hit when you’re away from home are even worse. If you’re planning a getaway this summer, be sure to pack two migraine kits. Stash one in your suitcase. Keep the other one with you—filled with a few essentials—so it’s handy if you’re on the road, on a plane or anywhere that a migraine could strike.


Here’s what goes in the “essential” kit:

  • Medication. Pack a few doses of your migraine meds plus anti-nausea medication. To clear security checkpoints, they need to be in original packaging.
  • Plastic bag. Great to have if you’re sick at your stomach.
  • Moist towelettes. Good for freshening up. For a cool compress, fill one with ice.

What else should you pack? Check out our migraine survival checklist:  CLICK HERE

Migraines and Mosquitoes

With the Zika virus continuing to make headlines, protecting yourself from mosquito bites is a top priority. Unfortunately, the scents and ingredients in bug repellants can often trigger migraines. For example, bug sprays with organophosphates or organochlorines have been associated with headaches, as is prolonged exposure to DEET. Unfortunately, DEET seems to be the most effective insect repellant. What can you do? Here are a few tips for avoiding mosquitos and migraines:

  • Don’t use high-concentration DEET. Instead, apply lower concentrations more often (e.g., use a 30% solution every 3 hours).
  • Consider DEET alternatives: The Australian Army uses icaridin (Picaridin is a brand available at sources like Amazon). It’s odorless and causes fewer skin irritations that DEET and the World Health Organization promotes it as a DEET alternative.
  • Electric fans make it difficult for mosquitoes to fly and they dispel the carbon dioxide trail that leads mosquitoes to us.

Stay clean (but not fragrant!) Sweet fragrances and earthy body odor attract mosquitoes.

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