I started getting migraines when I hit my teens. They vary in their aggressiveness from just seeing lights in front of my eyes to rendering me unable to move from my bed. As this week marks the national Migraine Awareness week for 2017. I wanted to raise the issue and provide some more information on the subject.
When the average person has a “bad headache” it is nothing compared to the pain of a migraine. Migraine pain is most often described as throbbing or pulsating. Depending on the individual, it can feel like your head is about to explode. Some may experience a sharp tabbing or burning pain. And many have some combination of these types of pain. Unfortunately, I tend to suffer from the head is about to explode scenario.
The source of pain from a migraine may sometimes be limited to only one side of the head. However, if you are anything like myself you may experience it on both sides. Those with pain throughout the head can also have more intense pain on one side than the other. The pain can be located anywhere on the head, including in the eyes, sinuses, roof of mouth, ears or face.
On my bad days, I find it even impossible to get out of bed. Last time I suffered from a bad migraine I was bed bound for a whole day. It is often the case that Migraine pain increases with movement. Rolling over in bed can be excruciating. Some individuals will find it so bad that they will even avoid getting up to get medication or water or to go to the bathroom because walking is too painful.
Unfortunately, this is a common symptom that I experience with each attack. There’s a common misconception that people vomit because the pain is so bad, but the nausea is a symptom separate from the pain (some people even have migraine attacks with severe nausea and no head pain). Most people with migraine have nausea and only quarter of them will vomit. Being sick is never pleasant, but when any movement can worsen the pain, it is nothing short of horrific. Nausea without vomiting is nothing to scoff at. People with chronic migraine can lose unhealthy amounts of weight because they are too nauseated to eat.
Lights are too loud, sounds are too loud, odours are too strong and touch is irritating during a migraine. Any of these sensory inputs can cause physical pain.
The primary symptoms people associate with migraine – pain, nausea, vomiting, sense hypersensitivity – are only the most common. Here are a handful of examples from the very long list of possible migraine symptoms: vertigo, difficulty finding words, numbness or tingling in the face or extremities, partial paralysis, frequent urination, brain fog, changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
The last attack I had lasted for four days. A typical migraine attack lasts between four and 72 hours. The excruciating pain part is only one of four migraine stages. The “migraine hangover,” which happens after the worst of the symptoms pass, also includes a headache and can last for days. With chronic migraine that’s daily, one migraine attack runs into another, with no respite between attacks.
Over-the-counter painkillers, like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are the normal go-to treatment for non-migraine headaches. They can be effective for some of people with migraine – especially with added caffeine – but they have little or no effect on myself as they may as well be a packet of mints and the same applies to most of migraine sufferers. Prescription migraine drugs provide relief for some people, but others get no benefit from any medication.
As like many who suffer an attack I am unable to function normally and about half of sufferers report severe impairment or the need for bed rest. The World Health Organization has found that migraine is the most disabling neurological illness by far and it ranks in the top 20 most disabling medical conditions worldwide. WHO also found that “severe continuous migraine” (which some people with chronic migraine experience) is as disabling as quadriplegia.
Even between migraine attacks, a patient isn’t necessarily symptom-free and may experience anxiety about when their next migraine will occur and how severe it will be. Those with chronic migraine may not return to normal neurological function between migraine attacks.
Unfortunately, a lot of people still perceive a migraine as “just a headache,” people with migraine face a huge stigma in addition to having disabling symptoms. By making people more aware of the symptoms and how it affects everyone differently we can work towards changing that perspective.
Click on the below leaflet to download a copy of the current "Are you the 1 in 7?" booklet for 2017.
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