U Neurologists Talk About Migraines


Silvana Peterson

Research shows women are more likely to experience migraines than men. Photo taken on Orem bridge on April 14, 2021. (Photo by Silvana Peterson | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Malinka Kaluarachchi, News Writer


During a migraine episode, a person may experience light sensitivity, sound sensitivity and nausea. A person might be unable to focus or think clearly. Driving may be impaired and it may be difficult to simply function in daily life. While most people may be able to work through their headaches, migraines make it nearly impossible to get the day’s work done, and research finds women may be even more prone to getting them than men.

“Migraines are an inherited headache disorder,” said Dr. Kathleen Digre, who specializes in headaches and neuro-ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center.

Digre also mentioned that migraines are often misdiagnosed as common headaches.

A common headache can be caused by many things such as stress, high blood pressure, the flu, missed meals, weather changes and other environmental factors.

Digre said the brain of a migraine sufferer is more sensitive. If someone suffers from this condition, most likely, their parents or other family members also have migraines.

Dr. Seniha N. Ozudogru is a neurologist at the University of Utah Hospital who studies migraines as well.

“It is a debilitating disorder that affects people’s functionality and productivity,” Ozudogru said. “It can affect balance and cause dizziness.”

A woman may be more affected by this condition because of fluctuating estrogen levels. Examples of when estrogen levels change are right before a menstrual period and during pregnancy and menopause.

“There is also some research showing probable differences in structure and functioning of the brains of men and women who suffer migraines,” Ozudogru said.

Digre said hormones are definitely a factor in women who suffer from debilitating migraines.

During the pandemic, the chance of getting a migraine is much higher with the increased anxiety, longer screen time, stress and unscheduled sleep. However, if a person who already suffers from migraines gets COVID-19, the feeling is even more difficult to bear.

“The migraines may be much worse for someone who [regularly] has migraines and contracts COVID-19,” Digre said.

As research is being done continuously on this subject, there are more helpful solutions than ever. Cognitive behavioral therapy, quality sleep, exercise, yoga, a healthy diet, over-the-counter pills, ice packs and a dark, quiet room may all help remedy an intense migraine attack. Even something as simple as a warm shower can help alleviate some of the symptoms.

“A headache and migraine are not the same and it’s important to realize this. There are many treatment options available for migraine and no one has to suffer through it.” Ozudogru said.

The U even has its own Headache School, whose mission is to educate people suffering from migraines in a safe and supportive environment. The ultimate goal of the program is to eliminate the pain and suffering of patients through research and education.

“Diagnosis is most important and then the provider must come up with the best treatment,” Digre said.