Migraine Is Not Your Only Option
Despite affecting up to 1 in 7 people and being among the leading causes of disability, migraine is under-researched, under-diagnosed and in many cases – undertreated. World Brian Day 2019 is dedicated to raising awareness about the most common brain disease in the world and we at FindMeCure want to contribute to the dialogue.
According to the World Brain Day site, migraine research is one of the most underfunded on burdensome diseases. We want you to know, however, that you’re not alone in this fight and you have options – from clinical trials looking to find a cure to over-the-counter painkillers and other forms of therapy, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
We talked a while back about how bikini medicine is costing women their lives and we feel like migraine is a good example of the kind of medical bias that contributes to the health gap between the sexes. Migraine affects 3 times as many women as it does men and is often triggered by hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause. Talking about such issues, reporting our symptoms to the GP and demanding better treatments is crucial in fighting for better healthcare.
Be a brave warrior for the cause by starting with your own health!
Be a brave warrior for the cause by starting with your own health, here’s how. If you experience migraine symptoms – throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, and vomiting – start keeping a diary.
A migraine diary is going to 1) help your doctor arrive at a diagnosis faster and easier, which means your treatment can start sooner and 2) help you recognize triggers and patterns that might be pivotal for your treatment. Record everything that can be useful from your daily activities to drugs you’re taking for your headaches and bring your diary along with you to every doctor’s appointment. Especially if you notice a change in the pattern of your headaches!
Know that overusing painkillers might be contributing to your headache. Yes, unfortunately, even if you never overdose, some painkillers can only be taken for less than 10 days a month – more than that and you will likely experience what is known as painkiller headache.
If you need to take painkillers more frequently or over-the-counter painkillers simply don’t work for you, your doctor will probably prescribe triptans. If they don’t – ask for them. Never be afraid to ask for treatment that can make the difference between a life of pain and enjoying your day-to-day.
What are triptans? Triptan drugs are specifically designed for migraine and they deal with the pain by shrinking the blood vessels around the brain. One of the causes of migraine headache is thought to be widening of said blood vessels, so triptans go for them precisely.
If your nausea makes it impossible for you to swallow a tablet, don’t worry – triptans are also available as injections and nasal sprays, simply inform your GP so they can prescribe accordingly. Usually, your doctor will ask for a follow-up appointment, once you’ve had the change to adjust to the triptan treatment, so you can discuss side effects and effectiveness.
Another drug that can accompany your painkillers and/or triptans is anti-sickness or anti-emetics as they’re sometimes called. Don’t worry – those medicines are not just effective if you report feeling sick during a migraine attack. If taken as soon as you notice an attack approaching, anti-sickness tablets (also available as a suppository) are very effective in fighting off a headache.
Are there another way, though? If you don’t want to rely on medicines a few times a month or you’re hoping for a more long-term solution, is there an alternative? Absolutely, and we urge you to ask for it. Some evidence suggests that acupuncture over the course of 5 to 8 weeks can be beneficial. On top of that, there is this procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) approved as recently as 2014 for the treatment of migraines.
How TMS works is by delivering magnetic pulses via an electrical device held to your head. Specialists don’t exactly know why it works on migraines but studies suggest TMS at the beginning of a migraine attack can reduce its severity. The procedure works mostly for people who experience aura – the first warning signs of an approaching episode. Unfortunately, TMS is not a cure and it requires more research into the long-term effects it can have. The use of such therapies, however, is essential for women who can’t take medicines due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, so more funding should go to research.
Clinical trials are another option you should be brave enough to ask for. In many cases, your doctor knows about a trial or an experimental treatment that could be available but they won’t suggest unless you express your interest in it or nothing else works to alleviate your symptoms. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring this up. If there is a treatment that could help you, you should at least know about it.
Do your own research and remember that you don’t have to join if you don’t want to or don’t fit the enrollment criteria. In some cases, you can be granted access to treatments in development if the benefits outweigh the risks and nothing else works for you. Such practice is often referred to as compassionate use and you can look into it if migraines severely impact your life but no medication or alternative treatment has worked so far.
by being proactive about your health and demanding better care you are becoming a part of a wave of patients that come forward and ask for patient-centered healthcare
Remember that by being proactive about your health and demanding better care you are becoming a part of a wave of patients that come forward and ask for patient-centered healthcare and more research into less understood diseases. Use your voice wisely.