I have had migraines and headaches for more than 30 years, since I was about 14. It would seem after three decades of headaches and their wicked stepsister, the migraine, that I would know everything there is to know about them. But the truth is, I don’t. And judging from my fellow sufferers, I am not alone.
I am a member of a Facebook group from the American Migraine Foundation with more than 20,000 members. I can see from these posts that these migraineurs are just like me, searching for relief and answers about the ruthless pain of migraine.
Like any other group, there are pictures and memes. From cute ones of dogs and cats who offer a little comfort when someone is suffering with a migraine, to lists and complaints about what not to say to a person who has migraine.
It’s Okay, We’re All Still Learning
I have learned more from this group than I have learned about my migraines from consulting doctors over the past 15 years. I say, 15 years even though I have had them for 30 years, because I did not know I had migraines for about half as long as I have had them. This is true even though I had a benign brain tumor and brain surgery in the middle of all that! If anyone would have found out she had migraines, you would have thought it would be me, but I guess with everything else going on, migraines cam in second.
Even so, I know it is not unusual for people to suffer with headaches and migraines for years before getting a diagnosis or treatment. Migraines are still a mystery. In fact, it is only through this group, that I finally confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who had pre-migraine itching as part of my prodrome, even though I couldn’t confirm it with doctors or Google searches.
Even Doctors Know Very Little About Migraine
But I was surprised to find out that even the doctors who are trained to know about migraines and headaches know very little about them. Sometimes neurologists, who study the body’s brain and nervous system, are discouraged from focusing on migraines and headaches in favor of more “worthy” diseases such as Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, undergraduate doctors only receive four hours of training about headaches and migraine. As such, many people are not diagnosed or treated effectively. In the U.S. and U.K., only 50% percent of those identified with migraine had seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the past 12 months and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed.Only half of those with migraine had seen a doctor for headache in the past year and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed. Click To Tweet
So Here are a Few Facts About Migraine:
- A migraine is a specific type of headache that can cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain. It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. Migraines can last for a few hours or for many days.
- Some people have auras before a migraine about 5 minutes to one hour before a migraine where they see things like flashing lights or have blind spots.
- More people will have a prodrome phase which happens a few hours to a few days before a migraine and can include other symptoms like irritability, yawning, trouble speaking or concentrating, cravings for food, and many other symptoms.
- Migraines are the most common disabling brain disorder with 13% of adults in the U.S. suffering from migraines. Globally, migraine is the sixth highest cause of years lost due to disability. Headache disorders collectively were third highest.
- Many people do not get the help they need. Only half of people with migraine have seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the past 12 months and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed.
- Women are more likely to experience the condition by about 2:1 likely due to hormonal causes.
- Medications as well as other techniques such as relaxation, biofeedback, avoiding triggers, and massage may be used to control migraines and live with the pain.
- The cause of migraines is still not known. There are likely hereditary factors as many as 80 to 90 percent of people with migraines have a family member with migraine. Environment may also play a role.
If you have migraines or think you have them, I hope you find the treatment, relief, and support that works for you. If you do have migraines, what are some of the funny things people have said to you about them?
Additional links and resources:
Discovering Migraines: An article I wrote on what a migraine feels like to me.
Discover What Your Migraine Neurologist is Learning this Year
Surprisingly, Headache Doctors Face Migraine Stigma Too
Headache Disorder Fact Sheet