Tuesday, July 2, 2013

About (My) Migraines

This post is in answer to questions from one of my readers.

 I had my first migraine twenty years ago. I blame it on marriage. No, no, no, I'm only kidding!! It was the reality of being uninformed and knowing that we weren't ready to start a family immediately. Like many young women of the time who didn't question her physician or get second opinions, I went on birth control. (I personally think that going on the birth control messed up my hormones and that was the start of my migraine journey.) We were on our honeymoon when I had my first migraine. At the time I just thought it was just a doozy of a headache. As the months went by, they started becoming more severe. I can't remember how often I got them, but I do remember attempting to sleep them off in a dark and quiet bedroom. Eventually I went on an injectable triptan called Imitrex. It worked quite well. At least if I awoke with a migraine I could give myself a shot in the thigh and actually function at work. Once we were ready to start a family, I couldn't/wouldn't take anything. However, by second trimester and through the rest of each pregnancy, I didn't get a single migraine. During these years, I would go in for intravenous medications as they were the safest for first trimester pregnancy, or nursing infants.

Eventually, I went back on triptans again. Sometimes they would work and sometimes they didn't. On the occasions that they didn't, I would end up in the emergency room for what the nurses often call a migraine cocktail. They are usually a combination of anti-nausea meds, pain killers, and anti-inflammatory meds. I typically came home mostly pain free, but feeling rotten from the medication cocktail.

The biggest difficulty for me in controlling my migraines is that there really is no predictability to them.They are not cyclical, nor do I get an aura or any other obvious symptoms that would indicate I'm going to be knocked out for at least 48 hours. Most often in the morning. with a lovely (sarcasm) sharp pinging on the right side of my head inside my skull above my eye. (I used to get them alternating sides, but I no longer get them on the left side. I have no idea why.) By then it is usually too late for any medications to have a good effect -- especially in the last three years.

Ironically, when we were going through the adoption process, I didn't have a migraine for fourteen months. I really can't say that I had done anything different -- except that I had started taking Aerius for allergies after a really bad bout of migraines, sinus issues, and allergies. I'm pretty sure that the Aerius (desloratadine) was the reason for the dry spell. Eventually, my body became used to the Aerius to the point that I started getting migraines again. It still helps with the allergies though.

In the past three years, the migraines have been especially bad. I have tried different triptans, sticking to a very strict routine,  and changing my diet -- among other things -- but nothing has really worked. I get them approximately every six weeks and am then virtually useless for at least three days. Several times I have had to make multiple trips to the emergency room to receive pain medication that still does not work. I am either getting wimpy or they have become worse.

After a really bad bout again this past April, I started doing some more research. It appears that my migraines are definitely stress related, even though I was migraine free through the adoption process. However, they are also allergy related. More specifically if I develop a case of sinusitis. This is pretty much a guarantee every time I get a cold. Although I rarely get colds, I am allergic to dust mites, many types of molds, and a host of outdoor pollinating plants -- especially springtime trees. I tried going off the Aerius once and it was a disaster. In saying that, I need to add that I cannot take other anti-allergy meds because I react horribly to them. They either make me a walking zombie, or a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Neither reaction is pretty, so I avoid them.

In this post, I stated that I had been migraine free for 10 weeks, which is great. Within days, of that post I did get the beginnings of a migraine in the daytime. I was able to have a nap and take triptans and ibuprofen as soon as I suspected it and was able to function normally. In less than a week, I woke up one morning at 4:30 am to the dreaded pinging in my brain. Again I took triptans, ibuprofen, and some Benadryl. If you've ever taken Benadryl, you know that a very common side effect is sleepiness, so I am careful to take it only if I know I am not driving that day because it makes me if not sleepy, then definitely relaxed.

On extra busy or stress filled weeks,  I will take Benadryl once or twice through the week at night. It is rare that I have an issue sleeping, so this is not why I take it, but rather I take it in the hope that it relaxes my brain muscles and I will not wake up with the dreaded pinging.

It's not a cure nor is it foolproof, but it is what is currently working for me right now. I have had an MRI and seen a neurologist and she couldn't offer me any cures or real hope -- except that menopause might cure them. On top of that, my family physician has warned me that they might get worse yet before they get better. I'm choosing not to dwell on that and celebrating thirteen weeks of not having to go into the emergency room for a migraine cocktail.

***image source: Your Health Newsletters

19 comments:

  1. Oh Deborah, my heart goes out to you. How I hate things we can't FIX! I think you're doing an amazing job of educating yourself and finding a balance on how to treat yourself.

    Stress? With seven kids? Gee... I mean, even fabulous kids can bring on stress :D

    Praying for you, my friend,

    Julie

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    1. Yes, I know. How can life be stress free with seven kids, lol!? Thank you for the prayers, my friend.

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  2. Hi, My name is Lisa & I sent you 1 other comment asking about you migraines. It is so interesting & similar to my own. Mine started at 14 with my cycle but I also got the aura(zigzag) light in front of my eyes. During my 3 pregnancys, horrible at the beginning then nothing the rest of the preg. As Ive gotten older they have gotten worse. I have @ least 7-10 per month usually around cycle but also seem to be weather related. Or as you know for any reason. Ive been on everything under the sun & for the last few years pill Imitrex & pain pills. Also testing, Mri. There just seems to be no answer. At the end of month I go to new Nuerologist...we'll see. I don't get the auro too much anymore just get them. Usually on my right side starting at the base of my skull. Thank you for sharing about yours.

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    1. Hi Lisa,

      We do have a lot of similarities. I hope you get some answers by going to a new neurologist. I'd love to hear what he/she tells you. Migraines are certainly one of those things I would never wish on anyone else. The big relief is to know that we're not the only ones who battle this.

      Blessings!
      Deborah

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    2. Hi Deborah-
      I will certainly let you know. Though I'm afraid it will be that they just want to try a new med, not looking for more of that. But I do get desperate.
      I had 1 more question- do smells affect you? I cannot be near cigarette smoke. It is such a trigger for me. Also mold smells.And if I am in headache zone I can smell it from a mile away. Or really strong perfume but that one is not as bad.
      Again thanks for addressing them on your blog. And the response. Hope your having a wonderful 4th of July with your family. And prayers that your streak continues!! Lisa

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    3. I will be sick in other ways if exposed to cigarette smoke for a prolonged period of time. I am sure though that mold exposure is one of the things that causes my migraines. Perfume can make me downright ill even on a good day. Not necessarily a migraine, but headachy and nauseated.

      I had a bad round of migraines just over a week ago again. It' been demanded by the attending physician that I go on preventative meds now. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

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  3. Wow what a crazy journey Deborah! My dad also Is allergic to mold and too must dust and ragweed and things of that sort. Although my dad has never been to the ER for an injection, it sounds like they produce a lot of relief.

    Congrats on 13 weeks, that's awesome!!!! My dad has decided that his migraines are caused by the things he eats with cream. so ice cream, sour cream, whip cream, milk, and butter. he thought it was cheese too but he can now enjoy pizza again! :) oh and chocolate!

    Hope your summer is fun, relaxing, and stress and migraine free as possible!
    ~Michlyn

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    1. It must be so hard for your dad, Michlyn. Men rarely get migraines and it sounds like he gets real doozies too. I'm glad he has found his triggers. It should hopefully keep them far more away.

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  4. Have you tried magnesium citrate and Methyl B-12? I don't have migraines, but I have read that these two supplements can really help. I can't imagine what you must be going through. Glad you're migraine free right now!!!! God bless.

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    1. I do take the B supplements, but good idea! I should increase my magnesium.

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  5. I have migraines and take a boatload of Depakote for mine. Though the drug has caused me to pack on about 40 lbs. it has also reduced my migraines from several times a week to about a couple of times a month during very specific times, so I can almost predict when one is coming. I also wear a mouth guard at night made by my dentist to prevent teeth clenching, which I do when I'm stressed--and I'm always stressed--and causes horrible headaches. That helps, too. I take Quercitin (a bioflavonoid) to help my allergies and sinus issues.

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    1. Ugh! The weight gain! That's what I'm very afraid of! I've already packed on a few too many pounds in recent years. I've never heard of Quercitin. I will have to check it out.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear about your migraines! My mother had horrible migraines until she had a hysterectomy at age 47, and then they stopped. Both of my SILs get migraines, and one also just had a hysterectomy, but unfortunately she's still getting them. One thing that helped her was getting botox injections in her scalp, but the effects wore off after awhile.

    I hope that one day soon you'll find something that prevents migraines entirely. Whoever patents a drug that does away with migraines will be the richest person in the world!

    xofrances

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  7. I was having headaches daily and migraines once or twice a week and this went on for over a year. finally I went to the neurologist and he proscribed Topomax. It has some wonky side effects, like for instance, tingling in the hands and feet, metalic taste in the mouth and oh yes, my favorite side effect, loss of appetite. Unlike Depakote, Topomax patients usually lose weight. All of the side effects dissipate with time except the loss of appetite. The whole time you take it you most likely will not gain weight. The reason I went off it was for one of the rarer side effects which is cognitive impairment. It made me stupid. I had trouble following detailed conversations or doing the corssword--but the Dr assured me this is a rare side effect.
    You might want to take a look at this one but I think they only suggest it if your migraines are frequent.
    Good luck!

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    1. Well, this sounds like a better option that the Depkote. Although, I have my suspicions that I just might end up with the same side effect as you. There are already days where I'm feeling quite stupid. Lol! I wonder if my dr. will consider letting me have it due to the severity of my migraines when I do get one. I'll have to ask him.

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  8. No advice from me, I don't have a clue. But I do have prayers to offer on your behalf, sweet friend!

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    1. Thank you my friend! Prayers are always appreciated too!

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  9. Oh, Deborah. You are a woman of such courage! I have not experinced migranes in years, and the onset of mine had to do with BCpills also. The migranes let me know very soon the pill was not for me.( I am glad for that now for other reasons too.)

    I sm praying for you, and I will ask the Holy Spirit to remind me to continue to pray for you concerning your suffering.

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    1. Thank you my sweet friend! I am glad that you no longer get them! Thank you for the prayers!

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