I’ve been suffering from migraine headaches since I was 14 years old. The first time I had an attack I was in chorus at school and suddenly lost a good part of my vision. I was concerned and started to feel sick so I went to see the school nurse. We didn’t know it was a migraine until I was in the car with my mom a little while later and that weird feeling had progressed into the greatest pain I had ever experienced. A migraine isn’t your average headache, and for those who have never experienced it before, it can be difficult to explain exactly what it feels like. Yes, there is a blinding (literally, blinding), effect that this specific headache has, along with nausea, disorientation, and chills. Not everyone experiences them in the same way. For example, I have what is called migraine with aura. All this means is that the headache has an affect on my ability to see. Of course I wanted to know why this was happening to me, and if there was anything I could do about it. The sad thing for people who suffer from migraines is that there isn’t a whole lot out there that explains where the attacks come from and why (aka the mechanism). There are a few theories that I’ve heard and read about:
- Food Triggers (this word “trigger” is common jargon in the migraine world). These include things like red wine, cheese, and chocolate, for example.
- Menstruation. It has been speculated (key word: speculated) that migraine headaches could be triggered by hormonal changes in the body. Websites like Migraine Trust go into more detail about the specific hormones that have been attributed to migraine headaches. Most websites I’ve visited mention something about how it’s way more likely for a woman to suffer a migraine than a man, so maybe science is on the right track in investigating hormonal changes in women.
Of course there are other theories out there about why migraines are caused. MedlinePLus explains how migraines were thought to be caused by constriction of the blood vessels in the brain. Now doctors are looking to genes for an explanation.
I am fortunate that I don’t have chronic migraines. These people can suffer multiple attacks a week, whereas I usually get one or two a year if I’m lucky. People always tell me to take Advil, eat some food, take a nap, etc. What people fail to realize is that for many people there is no way to ward off a migraine, and your typical “get rid of my headache” methods will DEFINITELY NOT WORK. For me, once I start to lose my vision and feeling in my feet and hands, it’s already too late. Migraine “prevention” has to come from weeks of taking care of my body and hoping that the migraines will stay away.
There is hope though! There are tons of over the counter medications like Excedrin that can help some people with Migraine (not me, unfortunately). If that doesn’t work, there are plenty of migraine specialists out there that you can work with and even be prescribed something a little stronger to help fight off a migraine. I can’t remember the name of the medicine (something with a T?), but I actually got an injection into the stomach one time that dulled the pain a little bit. If I decided to be a doctor or a scientist, I think that I would definitely go into researching migraines. It’s fascinating to me that there is so little information out there, and so far, no cure. 🙁