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PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

Headache guru gets diagnosis right

October 05, 2009|Joe Graedon; Teresa Graedon

I have suffered with "the Monster" for more than 20 years. That's what I call my excruciating headaches. It took five years to get a decent diagnosis.

I'd inject [migraine treatment] Imitrex, and the pain would leave eventually. I'd rather not take Imitrex unless there is no other choice.

One day, I'd had seven attacks. I called my doctor and said unless I could get help, today would be my last. I sent the same message to the Headache Clinic in Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. They took me seriously. The next day I had an appointment with Dr. Stephen Silberstein, the chief headache guru.

I was diagnosed with cluster headaches and prescribed verapamil for prevention and oxygen with a rebreather mask for treatment.

Amazingly, the first time I used the oxygen, the headache was gone in several minutes. That was 10 years ago. This has now become nothing more than a nuisance that occasionally wakes me up at night.

Your story really points out the importance of a correct diagnosis. Patients and doctors need to work together to get that right so the proper treatment can be found.

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When medicine directions say "take with food," do I take it before I eat anything, at mid-meal or following the meal?

Unless there are instructions to the contrary (such as "take 30 minutes before eating"), a drug to be taken with food can be taken at any point in the meal. The idea is to reduce stomach irritation and, for some drugs, improve absorption.

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Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition.

www.peoples pharmacy.com

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