Visiting the ER for Migraines

April 13, 2016

er for migraines

Bright lights, strange faces, loud noises… these are the absolute last things you want around when you’re dealing with a migraine attack. But when the pain is so bad that you just can’t cope, where should you turn? Visiting the emergency room for a migraine may be the only way you can get through a horrible episode of migraine pain. While most migraines certainly feel like emergencies, ER staff may be able to help you calm the pain only temporarily. It’s important to seek help from a specialist if you suffer from recurrent migraine headaches.

Discrimination at the ER for Migraines

It’s an unfortunate truth that many migraine sufferers may face discrimination when they visit the ER for migraine pain. Because migraine headache is an invisible disease, a migraine sufferer may be labeled as a medication seeker when they complain of pain during an emergency room visit. In addition, because a headache is not usually a critical event, migraine sufferers may wait for hours before getting help while other patients with chest pain, cough and other more critical ailments may be seen first.

Treatment at the ER for Migraine Headache

Most ER physicians and other providers are not headache specialists and may be dismissive of migraine symptoms, even though headache is one of the most common reasons to visit the ER. There is no universal healthcare protocol for migraine headache, so the treatment for your migraine at the ER will vary from location to location, but most providers will first order a CT scan to rule out aneurysm or meningitis. If no life-threatening conditions are detected, you will most likely be given pain medication, NSAIDs to reduce swelling and/or a tryptan to treat the vascular symptoms of migraine.

Preventing ER Visits for Migraine

The best way to prevent an uncomfortable and possibly very painful visit to the ER for migraine symptoms is to work with a headache specialist to first prevent the migraines before they happen. You and your doctor can collaborate to create a treatment plan that may involve both medication and lifestyle therapies like massage, acupuncture and diet changes. It’s important to keep a supply of rescue medications on hand so that you can treat a migraine when it happens instead of waiting until the headache becomes so horribly painful that you must seek help in the emergency room. For patients with the most severe migraine headaches, a surgical treatment plan may be the best method of treatment for migraines.

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