June is migraine awareness month. Why is migraine awareness so important? To me it is important because diagnosis is not always easy and migraines never stay the same. When I was diagnosed I had very typical migraines with aura. I had an aura that is very common called a scintillating scotoma that would come on about half an hour prior to the migraine. It would always start with a black smudge in the corner of my eye then progress to an arch of golden, translucent blue and black light with a blind spot following it until I could no longer see. Magnificent light show followed by tremendous pain. I dealt with a lot of nausea and occasionally vomiting. I was extremely photophobic and also had sound sensitivity. It was your pretty typical migraine and easy for my doctor to diagnose. I started at around six per month from the get go. I was immediately put on a triptan and pretty much thought that was all there was to it.
However, my doctor missed my menstrual migraines because I neglected to mention the long streak of ‘intense’ headaches I would get prior to my period and during. I assumed they were not migraines since it did not follow the pattern I was then familiar with. It is important because a) they were not treated and were brutal b) it actually meant I was already getting around 10 or more migraines a month. I should in fact have been put on a preventative. Should have seen a neurologist. Instead, it would be years and well into my chronic migraines that I first saw a neurologist. And a good year before anyone paid much attention to the fact that, yes, I should be on a preventative. Early treatment is one of the important preventative measures to help with chronic migraines. So awareness is important for those with existing episodic migraines in case their migraines begin to change in symptoms, intensity and frequency.
Secondly, migraines themselves change over time and without awareness we are left with questions, concerns and fears. My migraines not only went chronic but I developed vestibular migraines with regular vertigo and persistent migraines auras. All of these changes were disturbing to me at the time. Early on there was not really any available information online or any support so it was frustrating that all I had to go on was my neurologist. Going by what he said my preventative should have worked perfectly. And they did not. Not to mention sudden changes to what is going on with the migraines can be very disorientating. You don’t know if treatment should change. You don’t know if there are any additional risk factors to be aware of. Like does having an aura All the time increase a person’s stroke risk? You don’t know if there is something Else going on, such with vertigo since there are other causes of vertigo. The more awareness we have the more we know we are not alone. The more we know of potential treatments available to us when doctors run out of ideas. The more realistic we are with our expectations of the treatments available to us. The more options we know are available to us with all lifestyle and alternative treatments to do with medications.
When I was younger I believed migraines were one of those unpleasant conditions I would easily treat with medications. Something I would not need to know much about in order to manage. Even when I first saw a neurologist I believed he could help me manage this condition with just another medication. I failed to grasp how complex it could become. That it could alter my life to the degree that it did. Alter my career goals. My capacity to work and function. Pretty much every major decision I have made since factors in the chronic migraines. The more complex a medical condition becomes and the more it affects our lives the more knowledge becomes an asset to us. Knowledge is power. We can make informed decisions about medications and treatments. Take control over our lifestyle changes. Adapt and cope in new ways. Seek out support from others who share our health concerns. Gain some perspective and understanding of what is going on. I find that complex problems require complex solutions and it takes a lot of time to find the solution that best works for us. Treatment plans that work for us and knowing that they will need to be adjusted and changed over time. Accepting and knowing that there is no cure for migraines, at this current time, but we can cope with them the best we can with the support of others who are going through the same thing.
Here are some migraine facts I would like to share for awareness:
- About one-third of those with migraine experience moderate to severe disability.
- The headache phase of a migraine is only one of four stages of a migraine. With a silent migraine it does not occur.
- The stages of a migraine are Prodrome, Aura, Headache and Postrome.
- The ‘typical’ migraine attack can last from 4 to 72 hours, but they can in fact last longer such is the case with a status migraine (Acute migraine lasting longer than 72 hours).
- Migraine attacks occur in children and teens as well as adults.
- Migraine attacks are disabling for 90% of migraineurs.
- Of the over 100 treatments are being used for migraine prevention none of them were developed for migraines.
- About a third of those with migraine experience aura. For those with migraine with aura not every migraine can have an aura.
- Common migraine symptoms are: throbbing pain, photosensitivity, sound sensitivity, and nausea.