Migraine Myths vs Facts
Myth 1: Migraine is just a headache
Migraine is a neurological disorder which stems from the brain. It has hundreds of individual symptoms, one of which is headache and is not always present. Head pain should be expected as the migraine initiates in the brain and this is why it is one of the most widely reported and disruptive symptoms of migraine, however, some of the other symptoms can be just as painful, or even more disabling.
Just like a leopard, no two migraines are the same. They have myriad triggers and affect the lives of people during their most productive years. They are so disabling that the World Health Organization has classified them as the 7th most disabling disease in the WORLD! (4th for women) To emphasise, here’s a quote from two of the top Neurologists in the world… “Severe migraine attacks are classified by the World Health Organisation as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis” (Shapiro & Goadsby, Cephalalgia, September 2007)
Myth 2: Only women have migraines
Three times more women than men suffer from migraine, and it’s the hormones and the way they fluctuate that’s the reason for this. Some women experience migraine specific to their hormonal changes, such as Menstrual Migraine and can pin their attacks to this exact time every month. In these cases, most sufferers know their triggers and many take one kind of Triptan, Frovex, which stays in the system longer and can help you over the few days.
Migraines were categorized early on by as being caused by women’s hysteria and women’s vapours. In 1900 B.C. The ancient Egyptians associated women’s mental and physical problems with the uterus which they believed was a free floating organism and that its movement caused women to go doolally. Migraine was just one of these problems.
Shockingly, Sigmund Freud – a sufferer himself agreed that migraine was just women being hysterical too! Dr. Marie Murray, co-author of the book ‘Migraine Not Just Another Headache‘ says “Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis famously suffered from migraine, yet by categorising his female patients’ inexplicable physical complaints as those of ‘hysterical, neurotic’ women he contributed to the misunderstanding of migraine.”
Of course now we know they were way off! Men do suffer from migraine and there are at least 125,000 of them in Ireland alone. Aside from specific menstrual symptoms, men who suffer from migraine experience the exact same symptoms as women. Men with migraine are just as disabled, debilitated, depressed and anxious as women with migraine but are notorious for their reluctance to see a GP about a ‘headache‘ (there it is again)
So guys if you do suffer from migraine please give us a call or email us. We will be happy to speak to you and give you as much information as we can. We can point you in the right direction with regards to specialists and treatment options; however, we cannot give you medical advice, but we know people who can!
Myth 3: Only adults have migraines
Wish this was true!!
Unfortunately this is not true either. Children do get migraine, in fact they have been diagnosed in children as young as 18 months, but they may manifest differently. Children may not get any head pain. Migraine might manifest in their stomach and they will vomit, be unable to eat, and want to sleep it off. If children do have head pain it may not be one sided, it may be less severe than an adult’s pain, but once a child presents with head pain at all, most doctors will want to rule out as much as possible in as short a time as possible, so don’t panic if they order some scans.
When taking a history, a doctor will ask if during childhood you used to get car-sick or motion sickness when travelling. This in itself can be a sign that you suffered from migraine as a child. This can also be a sign for parents that their child suffers too.
The ratio of boys to girls suffering from migraine will generally be the same until puberty, then in many cases, the lucky boys lose it, and the lovely hormones (as well as other factors) keep it going with the girls.
Myth 4: If you stop eating chocolate your migraine will go away
According to the Migraine Trust, food triggers are only present in 10% of sufferers. If you can definitely identify chocolate as a trigger then stop eating it, but remember that the migraines will not go away, they just won’t be triggered by chocolate anymore. The chocolate, cheese, red wine and caffeine thing is almost legendary. There are many more triggers than those associated with food. Weather is a big one; any change in barometric pressure can trigger a migraine. Stress and depression can be big triggers too. Sometimes, you can get away with one or two triggers, but a third one will send you over the threshold and into an attack.
With regards to food… there is a train of thought that says when you crave that chocolate, cheese, etc., you are already in the prodrome or early stages of your attack, so you eat the food then associate whatever symptoms follow with that food, rather than with the migraine. Remember, as migraine affects your brain, your body chemistry will change so cravings are not unusual. Before removing something from your diet that you may need, you should experiment. Remove something for a short period, see if your migraines change, then put it back into your diet and see if it makes things worse. A process of elimination may be necessary. Try doing this before spending money on expensive allergy tests that may leave you none the wiser.
Caffeine can be both a trigger and/or a saviour. You may have noticed that some of the combination medications have caffeine as an ingredient in them.
For tips on managing your migraine click here
Myth 5: If you don’t have auras, you don’t have Migraines
So not true!
Ah the great migraine aura with its colourful zig-zaggy lines, weird flashy lights and shapes and patterns that cover your eyes like a kaleidoscope that accompanies your other symptoms… Migraine Auras are probably the most famous symptoms of migraine, other than head pain. They can be some of the most truly terrifying symptoms, especially when experienced first-time, yet only 20% of migraineurs actually get an aura
Auras are not just visual, they can be anything from those zig-zag lines to numbness in a limb, pins and needles in your extremities, partial loss of sight or feeling, inability to speak, confusion and muzzy-headedness, etc, and do not always go away in their scheduled time slot. Auras can happen throughout the attack. They can be responsible for some migraine sufferers ending up in A & E when they are mistaken for symptoms of stroke.
A small percentage of people can suffer an aura and have no other typical symptoms, but like any other migraine attack can be equally wiped out for hours and maybe days afterwards. This is still migraine.
Migraine auras and other symptoms are said to have been responsible for some amazing art and literature through the years. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night is said to represent his aura in the spiral patterns. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the shrinking and growing that Alice experiences are thought to represent some of the author’s symptoms and these distortions are now called “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.“
To have a look at what a visual aura is like see this YouTube Video