Went In With Chronic Migraines -- Left Cured and Looking Younger

K. Mathews on 25 Apr 2012 at 12:30pm

migraine botox

Forget Advil – plastic surgery may be the way to alleviate your chronic migraines. 10% of Americans, most of whom are women, suffer from migraines. Though many will turn to a number of treatments to get rid of the pain, prescriptions and therapies don’t work for everyone. Now doctors are recommending eyelid surgery to patients who have exhausted other options in managing their migraines.

Eyelid surgery, also known as blepharoplasty, is a procedure that eliminates drooping skin around the eyes. Though the surgery is generally cosmetic in nature, doctors are finding that performing eyelid surgery offers “easy access” to sensory nerves that are believed to cause migraines.

In 2009, the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal published a study on eyelid surgery’s effect on migraines. After receiving blepharoplasty, 84% of the patients reported a major decrease in migraine pain, with 57% of them saying that the pain was eliminated altogether. While the study only had 75 subjects, it was enough for insurance companies to recently start covering the procedure for patients whose doctors deemed it medically necessary. As a result, a growing number of patients are pursuing this treatment, which will allow for a better understanding of how and why it works.

migraine surgery

The Boston Globe profiles Debra Haining, a 57-year-old who experienced excruciating migraine pain for five years. She tried more than a dozen conventional treatments unsuccessfully, and then grew tired of the doctors who encouraged her to learn to live with the pain. “When you are debilitated and life comes to a halt, you are willing to try what’s out there,” Haining said.

Haining finally met Dr. William Gerald Austin, who believed she would be a successful candidate for eyelid surgery. Typically, when Dr. Austin performs such a surgery, he is able to spot what he believes to be the source of the headaches. “80% of the time when I go to release a nerve, I find something anatomically wrong,” he says.

A little more than a decade ago, Dr. Bahman Guyuron began exploring the possibility of plastic surgery as a migraine cure after a few of his patients mentioned that their headaches went away following having a forehead lift. Dr. Guyuron decided to design a surgery that would target migraine trigger points. Initially, it was hard to find test subjects for this type of treatment, as doctors were wary of this atypical approach. Prospective patients were less hesitant, however; even if the cosmetic surgery did not alleviate the pain, at least they’d come out looking better.

Eyelid surgery isn’t the only cosmetic procedure receiving attention for migraines. Botox has also been the treatment of choice for some headache sufferers who say it works wonders. While Botox, and eyelid surgery for that matter, may not be the solution for everyone, it is nice to see the growing approaches for eradicating chronic pain.