The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies severe complicated migraine disease as equivalent to quadriplegia, active psychosis, and dementia in terms of the disability it causes during an attack. And more recently asthma.
This ought to be a public-health concern, yet it is not.
What are these complicated and complex migraines? Are they really that bad?
Do we really need to miss work for them?
Are they vascular or nervous system disorders, or a combination of both?
Or are they just constant annoying headaches from tension and stress?
44 million people currently suffer with varying forms of this migraine disease, and what is being done about it? Two thirds are women. "Estimates indicate that 3.5-5% of all children will experience recurrent headaches consistent with migraine" disease.
This has proven to be a complex area for science because of the wide range of migraine causes, migraine triggers and migraine symptoms that can vary in intensity from mild to life threatening in individuals. Science has changed its theories many times over the years, leaving me to wonder just who to trust.
Plus there is a lot of suspicion today around big drug pharmaceutical companies and the reliability of their studies. The recent study done by Professor Tim Dornan at Hope Hospital (University of Manchester Medical School Teaching Hospital) on prescription errors occurring found 1 in 20 items contained a mild error, over the period of a year. "1 in 550 prescription items contained a serious mistake."
So how are we laymen and women to know what to do? It's not just the internal dysfunction of our condition that is complicated. There is the external: red tape of the health care system, medications and side effects, added financial pressure, and stress on our relationships, just for a few examples.
Read and educate ourselves the best we can, I say! Understand just what are migraines – this socially underrated yet complicated neurological condition? And why are most of us not seeking effective treatment for them? Does this mean that we, ourselves are under rating and dismissing our experience too?
I know for myself, there was years of denial. Every time I felt better, I thought they would not come back. I did not know then that migraine is a chronic condition. It will return again and again, for most people.
WHO also says that “very large numbers of people troubled by headache do not receive effective care.”
A study done in the USA and the UK found that “only half of those identified with migraine had seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the previous 12 months, and only two-thirds had been correctly diagnosed.
Most were solely reliant on over-the-counter medications.” Over the counter medications do absolutely nothing for my migraines, and many upset my stomach.
Over the counter medications are targeted at headaches that arise from constricted blood vessels, working against the pain caused from the expanding of the blood vessels in migraine. This is where we must distinguish between severe migraines, complicated migraines and headaches.
Over the counter pain killers may make the pain worse for migraineurs. I wonder how many of us are undiagnosed and suffering needlessly?
I have seen hundreds of Doctors by now, most are under trained in this area. I live in Australia, and there is no such thing as a Migraine Doctor. There are General Practitioners who have a special interest in migraine, and then the specialists are Neurologists. After all, migraines are categorized as a neurological disease.
Not all neurologists deal with migraines.
It is imperative that you find a good Doctor and Neurologist to help you on your path to becoming pain free from complicated migraines and to develop an acute treatment strategy and find the right drugs for migraines that work effectively for you.
Your health care practitioner will help you to find the best medication for you to abort or prevent your attacks. There are many to choose from, here is our list of migraine medications to help you decide between over the counter, acute and prevention medications.
It might be wise to also discuss your worse case scenario using rescue migraine medications as an alternative to the emergency room.
Doctors typically prescribe abortive and prophylactic drugs for migraines along with painkillers.
I gave up trialling drugs originally due to extreme side effects and 'positive' thinking that they would go away. I can't tell you how many years I was told to think positively and they would go away. I did not know how complicated this condition was, then.
I was not a common textbook migraine case - my pattern was 10 days on and 3 days off, then 10 days on, etc. So 30 out of 40 days were spent in excruciating pain.
My first specialist, Professor James Lance, a world authority on headache treatment and a Neurologist at Prince of Wales Hospital (at that time), told me that it was all in my head and referred me to a psychiatrist and a dietitian to start a very long and drawn out elimination diet.
He even says in his book Migraine and Other Headaches that the form of treatment initially was to send patients to a psychiatrist. In those days it was considered more of an emotional problem. Fortunately, with foresight, Dr. Lance recognized the need to find one’s internal resources in order to deal with this complicated condition.
At the time, though, I just thought I was going crazy! In hindsight, I can now say, those twenty years of therapy did not help the actual pain at all, meaning, I still get chronic migraine headaches 20 days per month each month. I must confess that I refused to see the psychiatrist after our first visit and sought counseling instead.
Now I know that this situation is becoming increasingly complex where 44.5 million people in just three countries alone, suffer from complicated migraines and their symptoms. This painful condition is overwhelming and the attacks are absolutely devastating.
I highly recommend getting extra help and support from a professional counselor. It has helped in all areas of my life, and most importantly it helped me to get real about these complicated migraines.
Previously, I found it very difficult to find a counsellor that specialized in chronic pain. It was only through getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2000 that I got sick enough to find the help I needed.
So about three years ago I found a psychologist - over the
internet believe it or not - that has helped me with the CFS, but has
also helped me with managing my pain. Click here for professional pain counseling on-line.
I have recently decided to study
so I can specialize in pain management. The years of counseling helped
me get through the life altering destruction that comes with this
medical condition. Now I can pay it forward, so to speak.
I am diagnosed with
Chronic Migraines and cluster headaches that occur regularly in bouts. Before I found a
that worked, my eye used to swell up on one side and my eye lid would
droop, then the whole side of my face would swell, and my nose would run
and my eye would cry continuously just on that one side. Plus nausea, and every sensitivity listed.
I have 7 days off each month, and I cannot even bear to let myself imagine having a daily migraine. Those 7 normal days each month keep me sane.
Once you find the migraine pain medication that works for you, hopefully, well it is my wish that your life will improve drastically the way mine did towards less complicated migraine episodes. I still think it is a shame that I had to endure suffering for 14 years before I found anything that alleviated the pain effectively.
The last 5 years have been much easier, and even more so now that I take the migraine pain medication with my early warning signals. Its time to become migraine savvy - time to build your migraine headache new treatment plan and pain management network to deal with these complicated migraines and the challenging life that comes with them.
Taking abortive or prophylactic medication may be the only way to prevent these more complicated migraines. And even then, the medicines may not completely prevent your migraine attacks. But they will help reduce the frequency and the severity of the pain.
Studies now show that our best defense against migraine attacks is to use medications combined with complementary alternative therapies. This combination works for me. Give them a try.
1. Robertson, W.C. MD, Kao, A. MD et al. (2012) Migraine in Children available at Medscape Reference at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1179268-overview Accessed on Nov. 29, 2012.
2. WebMD.com (2010) Status Migrainosus. [Online], Available at: http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/status-migrainosus-symptoms-causes-treatment. Accessed Jan 2013.
Types of Migraines
Complicated Migraines: 44 Million and Counting!