Migraine headaches

Norton Children’s board-certified and fellowship-trained neurologists and neurosurgeons are the leading providers of migraine care in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Norton Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Our physicians have expertise in their fields and are training the next generation of pediatric specialists.

We’ll determine the cause of your child’s migraine headaches and create a treatment plan that minimizes risk, so your child can get back to being a kid.

Migraine symptoms

Migraine is the most common type of headache. These headaches can affect each child differently and can have a large impact on their quality of life.

Typically, these headaches are throbbing or pounding and may be associated with nausea, light sensitivity and sound sensitivity. The pain can be located on one part of the head or involve the whole head.

Sometimes there may be an aura, or other symptoms that accompany the headache. These may be described as visual disturbances (seeing waves of light, blurred vision, flashes of light, etc.), dizziness or numbness and tingling.

Rarely are headaches the first or only sign of a life-threating disease, such as infection or stroke.

Reasons to seek immediate evaluation by your doctor or the emergency room include:

  • Thunderclap headache – a headache that is severe within a few minutes of its onset
  • Positional headache – a headache that changes significantly depending on whether you are lying down or standing up
  • Headache that starts after a trauma or whiplash (sometimes as minor as a sneeze or cough)
  • Headache that wakes you from sleep at night
  • Headache associated with other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever or rash
  • Headache with focal neurologic symptoms, such as weakness
  • Changes in your thinking or speech during a headache

Migraine diagnosis

The diagnosis of a migraine headache is based on the your child’s history that you provide our team. Blood tests and brain scans do not help to diagnose a migraine.

Team members may order additional tests for your child if there are features of the headache that raise concerns for a different type of headache.

A brain MRI or a lumbar puncture can evaluate the pressure of the fluid within the head and evaluate for blood or infection within the spinal fluid. Your doctor may request an ophthalmologic examination to take a closer look at your child’s eyes.

Migraine treatment

Our team can recommend many actions you and your child can take to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Recommend efforts include getting plenty of regular sleep, eating meals at regular times without skipping meals, exercising or participating in active playing for at least 30 minutes each day, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding triggers such as caffeine.

A helpful practice is for you and your child to keep a headache diary that can assist in identifying other possible triggers or patterns to the headaches. Learning how to manage stress through techniques like biofeedback and controlled breathing can be helpful as well.

Our physicians may discuss different medication strategies with you, including acute or abortive therapies to treat a migraine when it is occurring, as well as preventive medications.

Acute therapies typically include NSAID medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) or triptan medications. It is important that these are not taken too often, as that could result in worsening of headaches. If indicated, preventive medications, or medications that are taken daily in order to reduce the severity and frequency of headaches, may be prescribed.

Our team also performs acupuncture to treat headaches.

Rarely, a migraine does not stop on its own and requires more aggressive treatments in the hospital.

Ongoing care

Our multidisciplinary team, including neurology and psychology, will evaluate your child at regular visits to monitor his or her headaches and quality of life.

Meet our team

Elizabeth Doll, M.D.

Anna O. Ehret, M.D.

Darren Farber, M.D.

Arpita Lakhotia, M.D.

Debra O’Donnell, M.D.

Michael Sweeney, M.D.

Brooke Threlkeld, psychologist


Contact Us

Connect to the Norton Children’s Hospital Neurology team
(502) 588-3650

Connect with Norton Children’s Neurosurgery team
(502) 583-1697

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