Migraines


The following are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence, posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling. All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or useful information.

migraine
Well, I do go blind (lasts less than two hours, usually about an hour), but I don't actually go completely speechless; it's more that I become incoherent. I know what I want to say, but I keep stumbing and making mistakes. I've never been drunk (believe it or not), but that's sort of what it seems like it must be like, except for the fact that I'm aware of the mistakes as soon as I've made them. It makes writing an especially tedious process because I have to take back every other keystroke. Talking is just awkward because I can't access things I'm trying to say, so I just spend a lot of time trying to organize what I want to come out, and even then it's imperfect.
Yeah, migraines don't have anything in common with a headache except for the fact that it's your head that hurts somewhere mixed in with all the other symptoms.

migraines
Do you get the visual problems when they first come on? I can't remember whether I told you about mine, but that was a big part of them. I had a few driving on long trips, which was always annoying since that meant I had to get someone else to drive or I was just stranded wherever until it passed up to an hour later.
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I took propanolol for a while and that prevented them from coming on. However, I'm not a big fan of taking meds constantly, so I just took Imitrex, which meant I had to deal with the visual problems when they came on, and the drug would abort the headache before it could start. Curiously, they almost completely stopped all of a sudden about 5 years ago. I've had fewer than a dozen in that time, which was what I would have in a week at the peak of my ordeal.

migraines
I had an aura for the first time about a year before I had an actual migraine. It happened in a night class and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I ended up borrowing a pair of sunglasses from another student. People probably thought I was just being silly but I was seriously scared. I had forgotten about the whole thing until a year later when I was teaching one day and found that I couldn't read the board. I tried to pretend nothing was wrong, but I couldn't tell what I had written The kids caught on that something was up because I was probably acting really weird. I mean, 90% of what was going through my mind translated to "WTF?" I finally told them to just work on the material they needed to cover, and I headed for the nurse's area. She realized it was a migraine and told me to lay down while the had someone else watch my class for a while. Eventually it passed and I just had the headache, which, relatively speaking, was a relief.

migraines
>I'm glad your migraines stopped. They can be so painful.
Actually, I've had worse "normal" headaches than most of the migraines I've had. The more debilitating thing was the "auras" and the vasosensivity that lasted for another 24 hours after the full day of the original migraine. Did you have that? Where you couldn't bend over or pick anything up without getting a jolt of pain.

migraines
One thing the neurologist I was seeing when I first had my migraines was that I should try to keep them from happening as soon as possible. He pointed out that brains tend to get into habits, so the best thing is to keep them from "practicing," so to speak.
>It makes you wonder if there was some food or environmental cause that you didn't recognize [triggering the migraines].
I kept a "migraine diary" in which kept track of the date, day of the week, and the time of occurance. The only pattern that was obvious was that I had a lot more on the weekend, and I have no explanation for that. They stopped after I stopped teaching to go to grad school, but I was still living in the same place at the time. Also, they didn't seem to be related to stress since I was more stressed out at the beginning of my teaching career than roughly six months into it when the migraines started. Fortunately, it has been quite a while since I've had one now. (Actually, I had one a few weeks ago, but nothing since then.)

Migraines cont'd
I'm lucky in that my migraines didn't come on until later in life, then, inexplicably, they disappeared almost a year later (sometime near the end of last summer). Since I started working with statistics programs I ran some tests on the frequency of my headaches (I kept a record of them). They occurred more on the weekend than during the week, and, curiously, they increased in frequency right up till the end, then just stopped. I still have some medication for them, and I'm paranoid enough to keep some on-hand in a number of places (my car, C's car, my shaving kit in case I'm traveling, the medicine cabinet, and so on). My symptoms were many and varied in nature, but were pretty consistent. The first thing I would experience was a distortion of my vision (sections just disappeared; it is difficult to describe anything more than that). That would last from 20 minutes to an hour, usually about 40. Within an hour of the onset I would begin to experience some pain. Prior to finding a successful medication (more on that later), I could be in constant pain for the rest of the day. The pain was aggravated by any activity which would increase blood pressure in my head (leaning over, picking up something heavy). The constant pain was over (usually) after a day, but the blood pressure symptoms remained for another day. I sometimes experienced nausea, but only on the most severe migraines. I also developed an aversion to light and sound occasionally. Those symptoms were far less consistent than any of the others.
Regarding the medication: there are three approaches to dealing with a migraine (there are parallels with getting pregnant).
1. Deal with it. That is, take some pain relief, but you still have the baby -I mean migraine.
2. Prevention. You can take a pill every day (indefinitely) which will keep you from ever getting pregnant -I mean the migraine.
3. Finally, you can take something to "shut down" a migraine before it takes root (analogous to the "morning after" pill; if you've never heard of that -it still isn't all that popular- let me know and I will explain). This is what I took in the form of a drug known as Imitrex, following attempts with the other two approaches. Fortunately this treatment would generally knock out the migraine while I was still having the visual distortion. Thus, I almost always avoided the pain.
The best thing is if you never have another one as long as you live. The first migraine I ever had was a "so-called" silent one. That is, I experienced the visual distortion, but that was all. No pain. That was at least a year before I ever had another.

Treatment
There are multiple strategies that will address this problem to varying extents:
1) Pain management - You have a migraine, you treat the pain. (e.g., Excedrin, etc.)
2) Abortive therapy - You have a migraine, but you stop it before it gets started. (e.g., Immitrex, etc.)
3) Prophylactic - You never have a migraine because you're keeping them from occurring. (e.g., Propanolol, etc.)
I tried all of the above. Fortunately, my migraines stopped abruptly without any explanation. I've had a few since then, but not many, especially compared to the several a week I had at the peak of things.




Copyright Alexplorer.

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