Chronic Migraine: What You Can Do
Anyone who has experienced a migraine will relate to the incapacitating headaches and accompanying symptoms such as nausea, visual disturbances and vomiting. A proportion of migraine sufferers will be effected by chronic migraines.
A chronic migraine is a migraine displaying far more intense symptoms, the effects of which are felt for more than fifteen days in a given month over a period of three months or more. Some suffers of chronic migraines may therefore experience a migraine almost every day.
Far more than just an ordinary headache, a migraine displays a variety of symptoms – which differ from person to person. Several different types of migraines can be experienced, each one with different symptoms.
Most migraine sufferers will experience an excruciating headache, however this is usually only on one side.
Some chronic migraine sufferers can also witness disturbances in their vision in the form of a flashing or zigzag of light in front of the eye. This is called an aura. Alternatively blurred vision or blind spots may be experienced. However, these symptoms can be experienced without a headache. Alongside visual disturbances, some people often encounter nausea or vomiting and may feel neck pain and a heightened sensitivity to light and sound.
A form of migraine known as Hemipleic migraine can cause a paralysis along one side of the body for a short period of time. The temporary numbness presents itself like a stroke, which can be extremely intimidating if felt for the first time.
Migraines are greatly effected by hormone levels. Therefore men are less likely to suffer from migraines than women, as women’s hormone levels are continuously fluctuating. Migraines are commonly experienced before or after a period and can be known as menstrual migraines. Menstrual migraines are just as severe and debilitating for the sufferer as chronic migraines.
Chronic migraines can occur so frequently, that it is not practical to simply treat the symptoms. The best method is to attempt to prevent the migraines entirely. Keeping a diary of all attacks of chronic migraines will help you to identify any possible triggers. As food is most commonly a trigger, it may be advisable to keep a food diary as well. Most commonly, chocolate, cheese, caffeine, citrus fruits and red wine are know to set of chronic migraines, alongside foods with a high monosodium glutamate content – contained in most Chinese foods.
Stress is another common trigger of chronic migraines. Lack of sleep, dehydration, low blood sugar levels and certain types of light can also be contributing factors. Furthermore, a chronic migraine sufferer, may notice that flickering lights or bright sunlight can trigger a migraine.
After identifying the triggers that effect you the most, try to avoid them entirely.
However this is not always possible and there are several over-the-counter medications available to treat the symptoms of a chronic migraine. Ergotamines, simple analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are included amongst these. Like most medications however, if taken too frequently headaches can increase in both frequency and severity.
This is known as the rebound effect – caused by using pain relief medication more than twice a week. The rebound effect can be experienced by overusing medication for as little as two months.
Some chronic migraine sufferers may need the assistance of prescription medication to combat their symptoms.
Forms of beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers have been known to reduce symptoms, as well as anti-seizure and anti-depressants and even botox. Over time, these prescriptions will act to prevent chronic migraines but will take up to two months for the effects to be felt as they need time to establish themselves within the body before they are fully effective.
If you suffer from chronic migraines, then it is advisable to visit a migraine specialist, who may then refer you to a migraine clinic if the symptoms are severe enough. A specialist will ensure that chronic migraines are in fact the cause of your symptoms by undertaking tests such as an MRI scan. They will then be able to prescribe the best treatment to suit your individual symptoms.
Understandably, sufferers of chronic migraines commonly become depressed and find they are unable to cope due to the high volume of days they experience these debilitating symptoms. Particularly if it effects their ability to work or continue with daily life.
Identifying the triggers of the chronic migraine is the first step, but you may also attempt non-medical treatments which focus on relaxation. This can include yoga or massage. It has been noted that certain aromatherapy oils, such as peppermint, sandalwood and eucalyptus can significantly reduce the effects of a migraine.
However, if everyday life has become significantly disrupted by chronic migraines, it is advisable to seek medical intervention.