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New treatments offer hope for migraine sufferers

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Migraine headaches affect 39 million people in the United States — children, men and especially women. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, some 18 percent of American women will get migraine headaches.

They can be debilitating — they're the third-leading cause of lost work days worldwide — but there are some promising, new treatments. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved three drugs that block a chemical the brain releases just before a migraine. 

About 60 percent of people who take them see the number of migraines they suffer cut in half, said Dr. Sarah Benish, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota told MPR News host Tom Crann.

When should someone consider these medications?

"Someone knows they've got migraines and they're noticing that it's disrupting their life — they're missing work, they're missing social events, they're missing out on seeing their kids play baseball this summer — they should come talk to their primary care doctor or a neurologist like myself to see how we can improve their quality of life," Benish said. 

To learn how migraines differ from other headaches and why women are more likely to get them, click play on the audio player above.