A migraine with brainstem aura, also referred to as a basilar migraine, causes migraine symptoms that develop from the brainstem or both sides of the brain. Basilar migraines can affect people of all ages, but with the right treatment plan, an individual can alleviate his or her basilar migraine symptoms.
What Are Basilar Migraines?
A basilar migraine occurs due to constriction of blood vessels that hampers blood flow to the brain. Initially, researchers indicated that basilar migraines were related to short-term spasms of the basilar artery, one of the arteries that delivers oxygen-rich blood to the brain. These researchers were later disproven, and today, basilar migraines are believed to be related to nerves in the brain.
Basilar migraines are a type of migraine with aura; basilar migraine aura has been linked to depression, and aura symptoms affect the brainstem or both sides of the brain. Comparatively, a migraine with typical aura affects only one side of the brain.
Basilar Migraine Causes
The exact cause of basilar migraines has not yet been defined. Some researchers believe basilar migraines may be linked to genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. Additionally, there may be various basilar migraine triggers, such as:
• Alcohol and/or caffeine consumption
• Too much physical activity
Like any migraine, it is important to identify the symptoms of a basilar migraine as quickly as possible. If an individual understands basilar migraine symptoms, he or she can treat these symptoms before they escalate.
Basilar Migraine Symptoms
Common basilar migraine symptoms include:
• Double vision
• Difficulty concentrating
• Slurred speech and/or difficulty speaking
Basilar migraines may also cause intense throbbing or pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head and the back of the neck. These symptoms may last for up to one hour, and they may occur at any time.
If a person experiences basilar migraine symptoms, he or she should seek out medical support. By consulting with a doctor, an individual can receive a proper basilar migraine diagnosis and explore different treatment options.
Basilar Migraine Diagnosis
Diagnosing a basilar migraine is rarely simple, as basilar migraine symptoms are often similar to those associated with a wide range of medical disorders. To properly diagnose a basilar migraine, a patient should meet with a doctor so he or she can undergo assorted tests.
At first, a doctor learns about a patient and his or her migraine symptoms. A doctor asks questions to find out how long a patient has been dealing with migraine pain, how frequently migraine attacks have occurred and how severe each migraine attack feels. Also, a doctor conducts a physical exam and reviews a patient’s medical history.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is sometimes used as part of a basilar migraine diagnosis. The test records electric signals to a patient’s brain and helps a doctor determine if a patient is dealing with seizures, basilar migraines or both.
In certain instances, a doctor conducts a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan during a basilar migraine testing. An MRI provides a doctor with clear images of the brain, and it allows a doctor to assess a patient’s brain structure and chemicals.
A doctor may also order a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) for a basilar migraine patient. An MRA enables a doctor to assess myriad blood vessels and identify any potential issues that could contribute to a patient’s basilar migraines.
In addition to the aforementioned tests, a doctor may request that a patient keep a migraine journal or use a 24-hour heart monitor. A migraine journal requires a patient to log any time that he or she experiences migraine symptoms, the severity of migraine symptoms and other pertinent information. The journal helps a doctor pinpoint triggers that lead to migraine attacks. Comparatively, a 24-hour heart monitor allows a doctor to study electrocardiographic changes that a patient experiences over the course of a day. In doing so, the monitor helps a doctor identify electrocardiographic changes that may result in basilar migraines.
A doctor’s goal is to provide a patient with an accurate migraine diagnosis. As such, multiple tests may be required to help a doctor accomplish his or her goal. If a doctor believes a patient is dealing with basilar migraines, he or she then crafts a custom treatment plan for this individual.
Are Basilar Migraines Preventable?
Lifestyle changes may sometimes be used to help an individual reduce his or her risk of basilar migraines. These changes may include:
• Avoiding Migraine Triggers: A doctor can help a patient identify migraine triggers, as well as develop a plan to avoid these triggers.
• Exercising Regularly: Research indicates that regular exercise helps reduce the frequency and severity of migraines and triggers the release of endorphins, hormones that serve as natural painkillers in the body.
• Maintaining a Balanced Diet: Eating small meals throughout the day can help an individual maintain consistent energy levels and lower his or her risk of basilar migraines; these meals should include foods that contain the right combination of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
• Getting Sufficient Rest: Establishing a quiet, comfortable sleep environment and developing a sleep regimen can help an individual get the rest that he or she needs to avoid migraine attacks.
The sooner an individual takes steps to alleviate basilar migraine pain, the better equipped that he or she becomes to avoid long-term symptoms. By working with a doctor, an individual dealing with basilar migraine symptoms can determine the best course of action to address these issues.
Basilar Migraine Treatment
Medication is the most-common basilar migraine treatment. Migraine medications help basilar migraine patients achieve short-term symptom relief, as well as prevent basilar migraines from becoming recurring problems.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are available both over the counter and via prescription. Research shows that NSAIDs sometimes help patients treat mild to moderate migraine symptoms.
Antiemetics are drugs commonly used to treat motion sickness. Research indicates that antiemetics may help migraine patients address nausea and vomiting during migraine attacks.
Occipital nerve blocks (ONBs) may also be used to treat basilar migraines. They involve the use of an injectable solution around nerves that cause basilar migraines. ONBs often deliver immediate results, with most patients experiencing migraine pain relief within 15 minutes of injection.
Which Basilar Migraine Treatment Works Best?
The ideal basilar migraine treatment depends on the patient, his or her symptoms and other factors. A patient may need to try multiple treatments before he or she can safely and effectively relieve basilar migraine symptoms.
Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute treats patients who were previously diagnosed with chronic migraines but find that their current medications are ineffective or cause intolerable side effects. He is a dual board-certified head and neck surgeon with subspecialty training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, and he uses his unique expertise to help patients quickly identify the best migraine treatment.
Many migraine treatments are available, and Dr. Cabin consults with a patient to ensure that he or she finds a treatment that provides long-lasting results. Dr. Cabin carefully evaluates a migraine patient and performs different tests to assess a patient’s symptoms. He then develops an individualized treatment plan designed to help a patient relieve his or her migraine pain.
How Does Dr. Cabin Treat Migraines?
If patients are not satisfied with the results of medications for chronic migraines, Dr. Cabin offers alternative treatments. Dr. Cabin provides Botox for migraines and minimally invasive migraine surgery, both of which have been shown to help patients treat their migraine symptoms.
Botox for migraines involves the use of a neurotoxin derived from Clostridium botulinum bacteria. During a Botox procedure, a migraine patient receives injectable treatments into different areas of the skin. The injectable treatments paralyze nerve signals from reaching muscles that otherwise cause abnormal muscle contraction to reduce migraine pain.
Migraine surgery offers a permanent treatment for migraine pain. The procedure is performed on different areas of the face, and it decompresses nerves that cause unwanted muscle movements that contribute to migraine symptoms.
Regardless of whether a patient receives Botox for migraines or migraine surgery, Dr. Cabin’s approach to treatment remains the same. Dr. Cabin prioritizes patient care, and he does everything he can to teach his patients about different migraine procedures and prepare his patients for treatment. Plus, Dr. Cabin tracks each patient’s progress following a migraine procedure to ensure that his patient can enjoy the full benefits of treatment.
Schedule a Migraine Treatment Consultation with Dr. Cabin Today
Basilar migraines are problematic, and they may become chronic problems. By scheduling a consultation with Dr. Cabin, a chronic migraine patient can work with a migraine treatment expert to correct his or her migraine symptoms.
Dr. Cabin is happy to meet with a chronic migraine patient to explore all available treatment options. To schedule a migraine treatment consultation with Dr. Cabin, please contact us online or call us today at 310.461.0303.