Headaches, like the common cold, happen. We have all had them, at one time or another. But a Migraine isn’t your garden-variety headache. It’s much worse. In fact, it’s a form of Chronic Illness. Approximately, 1 in every 4 American households has a member who suffers from them. Globally, Migraines are ranked as the third most prevalent illness — effecting one billion people. And the impact that this neurological disease has on patients is real. It’s more than a headache. It’s a constant battle that requires treatment, patience and perseverance.
Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. When one strikes, they progress through stages, i.e. Prodrome, Aura, Attack, Post-Drome. The symptoms of each stage are distinctive. But not every patient will experience all four stages. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed, you know the symptoms all too well:
- Prodrome begins 24-48 hours before the migraine occurs. During this time, patients may experience constipation, moodiness, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination, or frequent yawning.
- Aura can occur before and during migraines. They are reversible symptoms of the nervous system and usually visual in nature, i.e. seeing bright spots, flashes of light, or experiencing vision loss. But Auras can also include other disturbances, i.e. sensations in the arms and legs, weakness/numbness in the face or on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, hearing noises, or uncontrollable jerking movements. These begin gradually and build over several minutes.
- The Attack, or Migraine itself, lasts from four to 72 hours if left untreated. Frequency varies from one patient to the next. For some, the occurrence is seldom. For others, it may be numerous attacks each month. During this stage, patients experience severe pain (usually on one side of their head). Some patients say that the pain is all over their head. They are sensitive to light, smells, even touch, during this stage. Nausea and vomiting are also common.
- Post-Drome is the time following the attack. Typically, it lasts from an hour to a day in length. The patient often feels drained of energy. Others may feel relief that the attack is finally over. Confusion is also common. And many patients report that any sudden head movement brings back pain, temporarily.
Living with Migraine is difficult. This neurological disease is very incapacitating. In fact, about 90% of patients are unable to work, or function normally, during an episode. Depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances are also common with Migraine patients. And many have a family medical history of the illness. Maintaining a job, let alone building a career, is a challenge. As many as 20% of Migraine sufferers become disabled. All of these factors also impact daily living and relationships.
Despite the strides that are made yearly in medicine, Migraine remains a very misunderstood disease that is often undiagnosed and untreated. Most patients suffer in silence. This could be the result of escalating healthcare costs, limited access to medical care, or too little (if any) support at home/work. Another sad fact to consider is that many patients (25%) would actually benefit from preventative treatment, but only a few (12%) seek it. We need to change that and we can!
If you or a loved one has Migraines, or you suspect that you do, then it’s time to see a doctor and get help. You have options, from holistic treatment to medication. Put an end, or at least limit, your suffering. It’s time to start living, again!
*Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash