More than 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches -- more than three times as many women than men -- and there may now be a cure for those with the most debilitating headaches. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Sensitivity to light, sound, nausea, pressure and pain in the head are the symptoms of chronic migraine headaches, and a daily burden for New York City resident Carol Feinberg.
"I was always on to the next medication that was going to combat this migraine that didn't totally take care of it. This has been my path over 22 year period," says Feinberg.
Feinberg, a former retail executive and mother of two, eventually found what she calls her cure, a relatively new surgical procedure that has left her pain-free for over six months.
"It's just a happier life, a better life. And it's something that more people need to know about," says Feinberg.
The outpatient procedure goes a step further than the Botox treatment for migraines, which focuses on weakening muscles that are pressed up against the sensory nerves causing pain.
Plastic surgeon Kaveh Alizadeh, co-founder of New York Migraine Associates - a new surgical migraine center, says the surgery is based on a five year study done in Cleveland.
"The next concept was that well, if you go there and are able to figure out where these muscles sit in relation to the nerves and decompress these nerves, release these muscles, maybe the migraine can go away," explains Dr. Alizadeh.
Over the past three years about 30 patients have had the procedure done, and at this point 90 percent of them no longer suffer from migraines.
"It was immediate," recalls Feinberg.
Through ultrasound doctors determine where the points of compression are on the nerves.
Botox is used to relax the muscles that may be causing the pressure, and other numbing agents are used to block and identify the affected nerves.
Depending on where the pressure is, incisions are then made along the hairline by the eyelids or above the neck, and small portions of the muscle around the nerve or pieces of the nerve itself are removed. The nerves are then wrapped in protective tissue.
"Once you're able to release that pressure, the nerve can actually make a comeback. It can actually get better," says Dr. Alizadeh.
The procedure is recommended for those with severe chronic migraines and is not currently covered by insurance.