First some general information about migraines:
- Migraine is a neurological disease with extremely incapacitating neurological symptoms.
- It’s typically a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head. But in about 1/3 of attacks, both sides are affected.
- In some cases, other disabling symptoms are present without head pain.
- Attacks are often accompanied by one or more of the following disabling symptoms: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face.
- About 25% of migraine sufferers also have a visual disturbance called an aura, which usually lasts less than an hour.
- In 15-20% of attacks, other neurological symptoms occur before the actual head pain.
- Attacks usually last between 4 and 72 hours.
- Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world.
- Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households includes someone with migraine.
- Amazingly, 12% of the population – including children – suffers from migraine.
- 18% of American women, 6% of men, and 10% of children experience migraines.
- Migraine is most common between the ages of 25 and 55.
- Migraine tends to run in families. About 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine.
- Most people don’t realize how serious and incapacitating migraine can be.
- Migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world.
- Every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain, and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks.
- While most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, more than 4 million people have chronic daily migraine, with at least 15 migraine days per month.
- More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine.
I have suffered from migraines for as long as I can remember. I have a headache nearly everyday of my life. It’s just a matter if it’s a “normal” headache or migraine level. I experience auras, light sensitivity, dizziness, motion sensitivity, extreme pain and throbbing coupled with a feeling like a vice, sound sensitivity, nausea, and very rarely vomiting. Before surgery my triggers, that I knew of, included stress, too many carbs/sugar, lack of sleep, and weather. After surgery I’m having to relearn because my triggers are changing. I’ve found that my main triggers are now dehydration and too many carbs/sugar, but the main culprit is dehydration.
Staying hydrated has been my number one challenge lately, and thus my migraine frequency and intensity have greatly increased. The first few months post-op I found the frequency had decreased but I attribute that to less stress and less weight pulling on my shoulders, neck, and head that normally would cause tension headaches that would in turn morph into migraines. Now though, as I struggle to stay hydrated or give into bad eating habits once again, the frequency has increased again.
I’m prescribed Imitrex, which I take when I feel like my “normal” headache is going to tip over into migraine territory. If I wait too long I have to seclude myself in a quiet, dark room and wait for the med to kick in and hopefully bring relief. I try not to take it too often though as I’m only prescribed 12 a refill.
My mother has suffered from headaches her entire life. Though I only know of 2-3 that she would actually quantify as a migraine. She had a major, disabling, stroke 5 years ago that her doctors said was caused by “cluster headaches”. Before her big stroke she’d had mini-strokes occasionally for years, also attributed to the mysterious cluster headache. To me the term “cluster headache” sounds like a bogus diagnosis off a soap opera. Oh no! Not the cluster!
The main differences between a migraine and a cluster headache is that a cluster headache is always unilateral, will self resolve within 1-3 hours, and is not worsened by movement. It also can have symptoms similar to a mini-stroke with facial drooping and uneven pupil dilation. (https://www.medicinenet.com/cluster_headaches/article.htm)
Seeing the progression of my mother’s headache history to her eventual major stroke has me slightly terrified that the same could eventually happen to me. My headaches are different than hers though. Different triggers, different symptoms. That does little to comfort me though. I know Dad is worried about it too.
There’s not too much you can do to prevent migraines other than try to avoid your triggers, but even that’s not a guarantee. As I lose weight and my body changes, I’m having to relearn what my “new” body likes and doesn’t like. This includes my migraine triggers changing. They say that knowing is half the battle and they weren’t lying. I need to start taking better care of myself and be more proactive with my self-care. My husband tries not to say “I told you so” when I make poor choices, but I know he agrees. He lets me do my own thing, knowing that if he tries to remind me that my poor choices are not going to turn out for the best that I’ll just turn stubborn and want to do them all the more. So he lets me learn by my mistakes. Now I just need to actually listen to my body when it’s trying to teach me not to be stupid…