Migraines: General

This is the first in a series about migraines, different treatments, and how to handle them.

Part of being healthy for me means finding a healthy way to deal with my migraines.

For those of you who have never had a migraine before, you are so lucky.  For the other 6-8% of men and 15-18% of women in Europe and U.S., we can tell you, it is so much more than a headache (Figures from WHO 2004 Report).  It is agony defined.  It makes life hell.  It affects your ability to do your work and live your life.  It makes it difficult to process things.  Basic senses, such as seeing and hearing, cause sharp pains.  It can ruin plans and is rightfully considered a disability by the World Health Organization. It just plain sucks in all ways.

Um, yeah they do. Shirt by zazzle.com

Everyone’s migraines are different, so while I’m not an expert on migraines in general, I sure can tell you about mine.  I’m also not about to tell you that your headache is not a migraine just because it doesn’t look or act like mine(**).

While people who get migraines are mostly women between the age of 35-45 (WHO 2004), I do not fit in that profile.  I’m a woman, but I started getting my migraines consistently when I was really young, about the age of 7.  Because I’ve been dealing with them for most of my life I’ve figured out a lot of triggers and profiled my migraines down to a T:

  • Symptoms: Begins as a dull pain in one of two specific spots (one over each eye)building to an intensepounding pain on just the side that the pain started from.  Super sensitive to light.  Sensitive to sound.  Nausea and vomiting.  Did I mention the excruciating pain?
  • Duration:  Until I get medication or TONS of sleep.  If I don’t take medicine of some kind, it isn’t going away.
  • Triggers:  soft cheeses, alcohol (even when cooked into food), one type of fake sugar, summer thunderstorms, not eating on time, eating too much processed food, staring at screens too long, flickering fluorescent lights, CRT screens (thank god those are gone!), first day of my period, overheating, and exercise.

The exercise trigger is actually a very recent development and has had a huge impact on my overall health (I alluded about it briefly here).  While there is debate over whether or not these are exertion headaches that lead to migraines or a trigger alone for migrations still hasn’t been decided by my doctors.  Either way, no exercise for me until I figure it out.

We went through a lot when I was younger to get the migraine diagnosis that has been confirmed by many doctors since then.  At first, many of the doctors refused to believe I could be getting migraines at such a young age and sent me to get tests and my eyes checked.  I was fine in every other way and finally they just accepted what we already guessed… they were migraines.  Recently I’ve seen two neurologists to refine my diagnosis and treatment.

While I know a lot of the cause of migraines is genetic, I’ve always wondered the mechanics behind them and why my triggers trigger me.  Every doctor I’ve been to about them has put more pieces together in my puzzle.  I recently went to a new neurologist who, upon seeing my history of joint problems and hearing my description of the point of my pain suggested I might have the beginning stages of trochleitis, an inflammation of a tendon in the eye that has been linked to migraines and increasing migraine pain. I don’t have a lot of answers other than that, unfortunately, and I feel that the medical community doesn’t yet either.  I find that this has been a major struggle for me because without knowing the root cause, how can I treat them in a way that is healthy for my mind and body?  How can doctors shove medication at me just because it has helped decrease the pain of others and just hope it might work for me without serious consequences then move on the next thing if something bad happens?

I’ll talk about the various treatment options I’ve tried and how they’ve affected my health and others that I want to try in later posts.  But once again, sharing is part of enlightenment, so what has been your experience with migraines?  How has it affected your life?  What brings yours on?

**While I’m not about to tell you your pain is not a migraine, it is worth noting that there are MANY types of headaches that are very painful.  It is always worth it to talk to your doctor (or several different doctors) and give them as much information as you can.

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