A medication used to treat epilepsy could end the misery of migraines for millions of sufferers. It relieves a seizure-like phenomenon believed to be the underlying cause of the agonizing headaches. Studies suggested the drug, known as Lyrica, stops waves of activity in the brain that cause the migraines — but it had not been tested. Now experiments on mice have showed it also had an effect on calcium levels, which, if they fall low, can spark the condition.
Scientists at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said migraines are often preceded by visual disturbances such as flashing lights, shimmering lines and blind spots.
These are likely to be caused by a wave of electrical activity in brain cells called cortical spreading depression — or SD.
They found using Lyrica, used to treat similar symptoms in epilepsy, slowed SD and relieved migraines.
Painkillers and other drugs can ease the symptoms but do not work for everyone. As yet no drug has been found that can prevent the attacks.
Attacks can last for more than a day and sufferers generally feel the after-effects for up to two days.
Study leader Dr Stuart Cain said Lyrica, which has the generic name pregabalin, “shows clinical promise for migraine therapy.
“The study describes a method for tracking the progression of SD and provides support and a mechanism of action for pregabalin as a possible effective therapy in the treatment of migraine.
“Migraine is a common debilitating episodic brain disorder that presents as severe headaches accompanied by other symptoms including nausea and vomiting.”
Lyrica has also been approved by the NHS and US Food and Drug Administration in the treatment of other disorders – including general anxiety.