I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about migraines. Not many people are aware of what migraines are however, we can’t blame them since it is a rarely discussed topic. People who suffer from migraines have a hard time explaining the experience since the main symptom is a piercing headache which one might not see as a big deal.
First migraine episode in my life
My first migraine experience happened when I was in primary school-aged ten. The memory is very vivid, it felt like hell at that moment. I had had breakfast that morning and walked to school. Everything was going smoothly until after the assembly when I started to see black dots, wavy lines, flashes of light, or things that aren’t there, it felt like I had crossed eyes. So this happened for like an hour and it was the most torturous hour of my life.
With my vision impaired I started feeling nauseous, I could feel a slight headache. As I was walking to the classroom I started vomiting. The headache was now full-blown I felt like someone had hit me with a large hammer. This ordeal lasted for almost another hour. The teachers thought I was lying when I told them that I had this terrible headache that was tearing me apart. They thought I had food poisoning because of the vomiting. They took me to the local dispensary where the doctor gave me a few painkillers for the headache which calmed me down. I could still feel a lingering headache which lasted for three days. This was to be the first of many migraine episodes.
My friend’s experience
His experience is quite different, it happened to him while he was in primary school. For as long as he could remember he had been complaining about headaches to his grandma and other family members but they thought he was pretending so that he could avoid going to school.
It the closing day and usually the school held an assembly to award the best pupils and set the opening dates. It was during the assembly that he started feeling the headache and as it was sunny he went and slept under a tree. His migraine, however, did not come with the double vision, seeing colours or nausea. His grandma found him sleeping under the tree. His name had been called for an award as he had number three after the end of term examinations. He explained to his grandma about the headache and told her that he couldn’t go back to the assembly. His grandma finally understood what he was going through.
What are migraines?
It is a strong headache that often comes with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light lasting for hours or days. The pain is made worse by physical activity. Up to one-third of people affected have an aura: typically a short period of visual disturbance that signals that the headache will soon occur. Occasionally, an aura can occur with little or no headache following it.
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of migraine headaches.
- Migraine headaches are a symptom of a condition known as migraine.
- Caused by changes in your brain and to your genes. Your parents can even pass down migraine triggers like fatigue, bright lights, or weather changes.
- They start when overactive nerve cells send out signals that trigger your trigeminal nerve, which gives sensation to your head and face. This causes your body to release chemicals like serotonin and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) which makes blood vessels in the lining of your brain swell. Then, neurotransmitters cause inflammation and pain.
Signs and symptoms
a) About 15–30% of people with migraines experience them with an aura, and also frequently have migraines without aura.
b) The severity of the pain, duration of the headache, and frequency of attacks vary. A migraine lasting longer than 72 hours is termed status migrainosus.
There are four possible phases to a migraine, although not all the phases are necessarily experienced:
· The prodrome, which occurs hours or days before the headache
· The aura, which immediately precedes the headache
· The pain phase, also known as the headache phase
· The postdrome, the effects experienced following the end of a migraine attack
Migraines are associated with major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These psychiatric disorders are approximately 2–5 times more common in people without aura, and 3–10 times more common in people with aura.
These symptoms involve your vision. They usually start gradually, over a 5- to 20-minute period, and last less than an hour. You may:
· See black dots, wavy lines, flashes of light, or things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
· Have tunnel vision
· Not be able to see at all
· Have tingling or numbness on one side of your body
· Not be able to speak clearly
· Have ringing in your ears
· Notice changes in smell, taste, or touch
Several types of migraines exist.
The most common being migraine with aura (or classic migraine) and migraine without aura (or common migraine).
Other types include:
· Menstrual migraine – the headache is connected to a woman’s period.
· Silent migraine – also known as an acephalgic migraine. Aura symptoms occur without a headache.
· Vestibular migraine – one experiences vertigo, nausea, and vomiting and balance problems occurring with or without a headache. Frequently happens to people who have motion sickness.
· Abdominal migraine – characterized by stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Occurs in children and can later change into a classic migraine headache.
· Hemiplegic migraine – one experiences paralysis (hemiplegia) for a moment or lack of strength on one side of the body. One can feel numb, dizzy, or see vision changes. These symptoms can also be signs of a stroke, so get medical help right away.
· Ophthalmic migraine – also known as ocular or retinal migraines. They cause short-lived, partial, or total loss of vision in one eye, along with a dull ache behind the eye, which may spread to the rest of your head. Get medical help right away if you have any vision changes.
· Migraine with brainstem aura – Dizziness, confusion, or loss of balance can happen before the headache. The pain may affect the back of your head. These symptoms usually start suddenly and can come along with trouble speaking, ringing in your ears, and vomiting. This migraine is linked to hormone change and affects young adult women.
· Status migrainosus – may last for more than 72 hours. The pain and nausea can be so intense that one may need medical attention. Often, medicines or medication withdrawal can cause them.
· Ophthalmoplegic migraine – This causes pain and paralysis of the muscles of the eye. Immediate medical attention should be accorded as the symptoms may be triggered by pressure on the nerves behind the eye or by an aneurysm. Other signs are a droopy eyelid, double vision, or vision changes.
Common triggers include:
1. Hormone changes – During the Menstrual period, in pregnant women, or and during ovulating. Menopause, birth control methods that use hormones, or hormone replacement therapy.
2. Stress – the brain releases chemicals that may make blood vessel changes that can lead to a migraine.
3. Foods – aged cheese, alcohol, and food additives such as nitrates (hot dogs, and lunchmeats).
4. Skipping meals – I’ve been used to skipping meals all my life L
5. Caffeine – too much or not getting enough can cause headaches. Caffeine is used as a remedy for acute migraines.
6. Changes in weather – Storm fronts, changes in barometric pressure, strong winds, or changes in altitude can all trigger a migraine.
7. Senses – Loud noises, bright lights, and strong smells may trigger a migraine.
8. Medications – Vasodilators, which widen your blood vessels, can trigger them.
9. Physical activity – exercise and sex.
11. Changes to your sleep – You might get headaches when you sleep too much or not enough.
As you are all aware there isn’t an identified medicine for most migraines as scientists aren’t sure of what causes them. However, a couple of remedies do exist straight from your pharmacist to your local weed dealer. Scientists have discovered that certain chemicals in marijuana tend to have massive positive effects on patients suffering from migraines, anxiety disorders, ADHD etc. Other remedies include:
· Applying peppermint oil – the menthol in peppermint oil may stop a migraine from coming on,
· Use ginger – it eases nausea caused by many conditions, including migraines. It may also have other migraine benefits such as decreased migraine severity and duration.
- Try yoga – it uses breathing, meditation, and body postures to promote health and well-being
- Apply lavender oil – Inhaling lavender essential oil may ease migraine pain
I struggled a lot with my migraines as I didn’t know exactly what was happening to me and my parents weren’t too concerned. The doctors at the hospital seemed confused as well as I was given some strong painkillers which didn’t help. That was until 2014 when I met a person who had used medical marijuana to remedy her migraines. I tried it out and I have been migraine free for years with episodes only occurring not as frequent as they used to.
People who experience migraines have a hard time in life because the pain is immense and it renders one incapable of accomplishing any work. I’ve heard stories of people using different types of drugs including marijuana and psychedelics to help them from terrible migraines. However, as I am not a medical doctor or scientists I don’t advocate for the use of these products. People are different and what works for me might not work for you and it should be noted that some of the drugs might be illegal in some countries. Remember everything in moderation including moderation.
That’s all for me today, be safe and take care of yourself.