It was over 150 years ago that French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt first prepared aceylsalicylic acid, which was to eventually become the staple of medicine cabinets everywhere and more commonly known as aspirin.
For those people who suffer from the chronic and debilitating symptoms of a migraine it will come as a beacon of hope that something as simple as aspirin may help.
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Headache Center believe that not only can a high dose of injected liquid aspirin help the pain of migraines, but eventually those suffering from severe headaches too. Their findings were recently published in the journal Neurology.
Symptoms of severe migraines include a thumping headache, impaired vision, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Injecting liquid aspirin is intended for those that suffer migraines so severe that they are hospitalized. One gram of liquid aspirin is injected directly into a patient's bloodstream. The dose is 10 times the amount you would normally take.
It is important that the aspirin be injected rather than swallowed to prevent the stomach from bleeding.
Aspirin works by blocking the production of enzymes called cyclooxygenase, which are important for the release of prostaglandins, the hormone that sends pain signals to the brain.
The conventional method of treating chronic migraines is by giving patients triptans, most commonly used to restore the chemical balance in the brain. Triptans are not always successful for migraine sufferers.
Aspirin is a lot less expensive than triptans and have proved in studies to be just as, if not more, effective. A single dose of triptans costs $22, as opposed to a single shot of aspirin which costs just $7.
Another benefit of using aspirin is it is non-toxic, non-addictive and non-sedating, making safe to take over a prolonged period.
Chronic migraine sufferers often build up a resistance to their pain medication and have to have their dose increased. When their dose is eventually lowered they can experience withdrawal symptoms. The researchers at UCSF believe that taking high doses of aspirin could greatly benefit patients with pain while experience withdrawal.
“These results tell migraine sufferers, their doctors and insurance providers that high-dose intravenous aspirin is a beneficial way to treat difficult withdrawal headaches via a medicine that is not addictive or toxic,” explained Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, director of UCSF Headache Center, professor and lead investigator of the study.
During the study treatment was given to 168 patients, aged 18-75, with a history of hospitalization with migraine attacks. They were given five doses of injected aspirin and measured pain on a one to 10 scale.
Twenty-five percent of the treatment time patients reported a significant decline in pain. Forty percent of the time patients had a modest fall in pain.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, one in 40 households in the United States includes a sufferer, with approximately 12 million people suffering attacks on a near daily basis.
The American Academy of Neurology estimates that more than 30 million Americans suffer from migraines.