Thursday, August 25, 2011

Migraines (BEDA #25)

Picture by gmarcelo at http://www.sxc.hu/profile/gmarcelo


I was having a gab fest with my friends the other day when one of them brought up the topic of my Migraines. They know I have them (God knows that they know), but now they were asking more in depth questions, like what triggers them and what they should do if I have one with them around. We talked a lot that night, and it was good to get everything sorted out. It also made me think; what do people really know about Migraines?

One thing I notice a lot about Migraines is that people don't really understand what one is. A Migraine is not a headache, it's not even a bad headache, a Migraine is much worse. A Migraine is a full body experience that starts in the head but touches every limb and joint as well as the stomach. With a headache you can do things like walk and talk, but with a Migraine you cannot do even those. Usually people can work through a headache, but with a Migraine most people experience loss of vision, slurred speech, Paresthesia, and sensitivity to light, smells and noise, nausea and vomiting.

In medically diagnosed fact, a Migraine is a disease. There’s too much science talk to go into here, but if you look it up you will find that there is an actual genetic defect that causes Migraines*.

Another interesting/scary thing to know about Migraines that, well, they can kill you. Literally. According to a British Medical Journal report “Migraineurs are 2.2 times greater risk for stroke than the non-migraine population”**. According to the same study, women who are on the pill and experience auras are EIGHT times more likely to die from a stroke. I don’t mean to scare you, mum, but those numbers ain’t good for me.

Here are a few more things about Migraines that you might not know. I'm going to talk about my Migraines and put it into some perspective.

I can't remember how old I was when I got my first Migraine, but I think I was about ten or eleven. For those who like math, this means that I have been suffering from Migraines for about 13 or 14 years. 

My type of Migraine is a basilar -type Migraine in the family of Familial hemiplegic Migraine. This means that just before and during my attacks I experience an 'aura' and loose vision and suffer from motor weakness during and after the attack. The 'Familial' part of that long name basically means that it is hereditary. More recently, I have found that I suffer from Paresthesia (pins and needles) during the attacks, but also at random times throughout the day or night. It’s always localised though, so it’s usually pins and needles above my top lip or on a small part of my thumb.

At my worst, I would have been classified as having a Stage Three Moderate Disability, and may have been eligible for a disability support pension if I had followed it through. Luckily for me (and those around me) I am now classified as having an infrequent disability.

I mentioned that it was lucky for those around me because it is not easy knowing a Migraine sufferer. After one of my more recent attacks I was told that I actually scared my friend and roommate because she had never seen my looking so sick and pale before. I am fortunate in that there is not a lot that people have to do with I get a Migraine, just STFU basically. During the attacks the only thing that can stop it is dark, quiet, and my pills.

I have tried a lot of different medications over the years, but I have only found one that has helped. I started on an oral contraceptive that has helped to decrease the Migraine attacks by an incredible amount; where I used to have one or two a month I know have around one every three or four months! There is another medicine that I take as soon as I notice a Migraine coming, but for me it is a very short time between the aura or the Paresthesia and the pain, so that as soon as I notice them I have a whopping great big Migraine.

To date, no one knows why Migraines occur. I have heard from family that a Migraine is a form of seizure, which makes sense to me, but I have yet to find any conclusive study or report that says definitely that yes a Migraine is a seizure. There have been multiple studies that found family members of epileptics are more common to have Migraines than those without a family history or seizures.

I hope this has helped suffers and family/friends/colleagues of suffers to understand a bit more about this disease. I have added some links about the Migraine studies and some other helpful sites for those who are interested.

If you suffer from Migraines, or know someone who does, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment letting me and other readers know what you do when you have a Migraine, or maybe even a really inconvenient time that you had one? How does your boss react when you have to go home sick again?

Kathy

*http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11408113 and http://www.migraines.org/myth/mythreal.htm to name two

** http://www.migraines.org/myth/mythreal.htm

Links:

http://www.achenet.org/® (AHS) Committee for Headache Education
http://www.achenet.org/tools/migraine/index.asp the Migraine Disability Assessment Test
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine Wikipedia page. This has  a lot of interesting information on it.

Themes: migraines, suffering, Migraine, pain, disability, seizures, stroke, American Headache Society, Migraine Disability Assessment Test

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