Migraines affects thousands of people around the word each day and it can cause loss of speech, dizziness, nausea and even temporary blindness.
What is a migraine?
Migraines are severe, recurring, and painful headaches. They can be preceded or accompanied by sensory warning signs and other symptoms.
Migraine is a common and disabling condition. In the Global Burden of Disease Study by the World Health Organization, updated in 2013, migraine was found to be the sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability. Migraine attacks sometimes increase in frequency over time.
The extreme pain that migraines cause can last for hours or even days.
To be classified as being a migraine sufferer, one of the following symptoms must be present.
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- Phonophobia (sensitivity to noise)
Learn more about different types of migraine, their causes, symptoms and treatments here.
Facts about migraines:
· Some people who experience migraines can clearly identify triggers or factors that cause headaches, such as allergies, light, and stress.
· Some people get a warning symptom before the start of the migraine headache.
Many people with migraine can prevent a full-blown attack by recognizing and acting upon the warning signs.
· Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may eliminate or reduce pain, and specific medications may help some people with migraine.
· People who have severe attacks can take preventive medicines.
· The pain of migraine can be classified by at least two of the following:
- One side of the head at a time
- Is moderate to severe
- Is throbbing
- Is aggravated by movement
Other symptoms of a migraine
As well as the above, other migraine symptoms that may be experienced include:
· Osmophobia (sensitivity to smell)
· Auras (visual disturbances, such as flashing lights, seeing sparks, difficulty focusing, or having blind spots or lost vision)
· Difficulty concentrating, loss of coordination or trouble forming sentences and speaking
· Stiffness or soreness in the neck and shoulders
· Tingling, pins and needles, loss of balance and numbness
· Paralysis or loss of consciousness (rare)
Migraine headache has been documented for thousands of years, and neurologists say it's one of the most neglected conditions worldwide and is currently incurable. Today migraine impacts 15 percent of the population. Women are more likely to experience migraine than men, which is thought to be due to hormonal factors. While there does seem to be some genetic link to a person's chances of having migraines, there's no consistently proven cause and no one treatment appears to work for everyone. (Learn more about what happens in your brain when you have migraine)
Risk Factors for Chronic Migraine
Transition from episodic migraines ( less than 14 per month ) to chronic migraine ( more than 15 per month ) is associated with well-recognized, potentially treatable risk factors. Some examples of risk factors include:
· Other pain disorders
· Stressful life events
· Head/Neck injury
· Acute medication overuse
· Persistent, frequent nausea
Alternative and complementary treatments for migraine
Common alternative therapies tried for migraines include:
- Acupuncture, Chiropractic, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, naturopathy, mindfulness, daith piercing
- Physical therapies and gentle exercises including the Alexander technique, biofeedback, chiropractic therapy, massage, osteopathy, physiotherapy, shiatsu, yoga
You should speak with a doctor before trying any alternative relief.
What causes or triggers a migraine?
The cause of migraines is not yet known.
It is suspected that they result from abnormal activity in the brain. This can affect the way nerves communicate as well as the chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Genetics may make someone more sensitive to the triggers that can cause migraines.
Common triggers can be:
· Dietary: Some specific foods can be triggers, including caffeine, chocolate, missed or delayed meals, some wines, beers and spirits, dehydration, citrus fruits, aged cheeses, cultured products, foods containing the additive tyramine. (Learn about migraine and diet here)
· Environmental: Stress, bright or flickering lights, strong smells, flying or high altitude, loud noises, changes in weather, overuse of screens such as computers, strong smells, second-hand smoke, and stuffy rooms.
· Hormonal: Women may experience migraine symptoms during menstruation, due to changing hormone levels, oral contraceptives, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, menopause.
· Physical and emotional: Lack of sleep or oversleeping, illness such as a cold or flu, back and neck pain, poor posture, physical overexertion sudden and/or vigorous exercise, arguments, excitement and muscle tension, relaxation after stress (weekend headache). Low blood sugar and jet lag can also act as triggers. Stress, depression, anxiety, excitement, and shock can trigger a migraine.
· Medications: Some sleeping pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications, and the combined contraceptive pill have all been named as possible triggers.
Migraine stigma in the workplace
Stigma is defined as society´s tendency to minimize or discriminate against a characteristic, trait, or disease. Stigma leads to prejudice, discrimination, loss of status, and a tarnishing of an individual´s identity. Stigma is both a negative consequence of Migraine itself and a barrier to care, because it affects how we seek and access care.
Stigma got attached to Migraine somewhere around the 18th Century. Since that time, the disease is properly named as ‘Migraine’ but the stigma has been attached to the word.
Around the 1700s people started to look at Migraine as a disease of women who were overly sensitive and trying to escape from their social responsibilities. There is a statement that “all the women of Paris are incapacitated by Migraine and they´re not doing what they should do.”
Not only the patients were looked upon and made fun of in this way but the doctors who took care of them were viewed as incompetent people who were enabling this behavioral problem of women.
Ever since then there´s been this recurrent theme and negative view of people with Migraine. We´re kind of stuck with that.
One of the serious challenges for people experiencing migraines is discrimination in the workplace. Due to a pervasive awareness gap about the disabling impact migraines have on individuals, in the work environment, employers may perceive persons who suffer from as weak, lazy, lacking self-discipline, and exaggerating their symptoms. Contributing to these misperceptions are common beliefs among people that their own mild and tolerable headaches are migraines, when they are not, and the fact that the debilitating pain of migraines is useen and hard to measure.
Because these misperceptions are common, employers may believe that persons with migraines are inconsiderate, unable to plan because they have to miss a meeting or interrupt their work temporarily to cope when a migraine occurs, and/or use migraines as an excuse to avoid their responsibilities. The result is working persons with migraines often feel guilty about struggling to fulfil their obligations and often experience depression as a result. Women with migraines are 41 percent more likely to be depressed than those without a history of migraines. (Here are some facts about migraine)
However, misperceptions are not an excuse for employers to discriminate against working persons who live with migraines. There really need to be more awareness campaigns for migraine sufferers.
Compiled using information from the following sources: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/148373.php https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/chronic-migraine/ https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/identifying-treating-migraine/ https://migraineagain.com/migraine-stigma-at-work/ https://patientsrising.org/migraine-workplace-discrimination/