Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Migraines: Not just a headache.


Before my eyes are not even open, I can feel the pain. The pain that is unbearable at times, feels like someone just stabbed my head or like there is so much pressure in my head that it will just simply explode. The pain that radiates through my whole body, this is what makes me just want to cry.  This is the pain that I know all too well and know in my heart that I can’t control it anymore no matter how hard I try. I must sit up now and embrace the swirling feeling I will have in my head; I must embrace the day to come. Every day I wake up and the pain could be on the left, right, front, or back side of my head, it could even be all over. I also know the road I must take today and that by the end of the day I will be in so much pain I just might get so sick to where I will vomit. As much as I want to just stay in bed being motionless, in the silence, the dark, with my eyes still shut, I can’t. I must move on with my life and not let it control me. I have to live my life to the fullest and have no regrets.  This it is what is like for me, Morgan Kay-Lynn Barton, a nineteen year old, who suffers from daily migraines for the past five years.
Me at age 14, Smiling through a migraine that I had for about 7 months in this picture
Age 17, living with migraines for almost 4 year
Age 18. I never let a picture of me be taken with out a smile on my face
One in four American households includes someone who suffers from migraine headaches in their lifetime. It has been reported that every ten seconds someone in America goes to the emergency room for a migraine or headache. Over 27 million women alone are affected by migraines in the United States today (Migraines). There are about 36 million people in the United States alone that suffer from this painful disease. American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to employees that have migraines (Migraines). There should be more awareness shown for migraines. Not just in adults but in children too.
There are numerous forms of migraines and numerous amounts of cause. The most common type of migraine is your basic migraine, tension migraines, cluster migraine and chronic migraine. Most migraines can be caused by the narrowing and the dilating of the arteries in the brain. Other factors that can cause migraines are stress, fatigue, oversleeping or lack of sleep, fasting or missing a meal, food or medication that affects the diameter of blood vessels, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, hormonal changes, menstruation, change in barometric pressure, and changes in altitude. These are the ones that top the list and this list can go on and on. The triggers for migraine can vary from person to person, girl to boy, or even the person’s age. There is also very little known about migraines and there are many theories of what causes the migraines too.
For woman the key thing that triggers is stress or hormones. For woman from the ages of twenty to forty are prone to migraine because of the stress of work, children and having a house to care for. Each factor alone is stressful and could cause a migraine but when you add the all these factors together and it creates a perfect environment for a migraine. Another factor can be the hormones because they are always changing. Woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop sharply just before a menstrual cycle begins. Scientists also know that estrogen controls chemicals in the brain affect sensitivity to pain.
The key causes for migraines in men are alcohol consumption, the food they eat and their level of stress. For men and woman there can many cause for the migraines because everyone’s body chemistry is different and we all react differently to the things we do and put in our bodies. Many people know that adults can suffer from migraines, but there has not be enough light shed on the uprising fact that children suffer from debilitating migraines too. 
Children with migraines can have the same symptoms as adult but they can vary. The symptoms that are different in children are abdominal cramping, a need to sleep, paleness with dark circles under the eyes, sleepwalking and diarrhea. The children that develop migraines can start having migraines at the age of puberty or as early as eighteen months old. In children ages eighteen months to five years old can have symptom of holding their head, excessive crying and excessive sleeping. Children are more likely to have migraines if one of their parents has migraines because of the genes that are passed to the children (John Merach).
There are many stereotypes for adults and children with migraines that can are very different. For an adult, who work full time, the stereotypes can be that they don’t care about their job, that they are uncommitted to their job, or that they don’t care about the extra toll it will take on their co-workers because of their numerous absents from work. Also for adults they can be seen as weak, unhappy, miserable, depressed, disconnected or disabled. There can be many stereotypes placed on a person or even a child who struggles with migraines. Stereotyped, in children, they can be seen as lazy or someone with the lack of care for life.
In the past recent months we have heard about a political person who has been pointed out about having migraines. Michele Bachmann is a political candidate that is running for 2012 presidential campaign. Many of the American voters have been concerned with her capability of handling the stress of being president and living with migraine headaches. The voters see her as a weaker candidate.  Reporters have stated many of time that she lives with debilitating headaches that can incapacitate her for days and keep her from working (Warner). But Bachmann has responded to the statements by saying “Yes I do in fact have migraine headaches but she is able to control them well with medication (Warner). Because of the way the voters view her having migraines, something she has no control of, has caused her to step down from the presidential race. If Bachmann was to still be in the running for the presidential race and was to win she would have been in good company in the White House. The two most famous political figures that have had migraine headaches are Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant (Ford-Martin).  What I would have to say is that if we have not lived in Bachmann’s shoe then we cannot judge her for the choices. She has made the choice to run as a presidential candidate because the one who knows her the best is herself, and if she believes she could handle the challenges that come with the job then more power to her.
            Migraine headaches are different from other diseases in many of ways. Though migraines don’t have many physical effects on a person that people can easily see but they have a great emotional toll on a person. There is not a specific treatment or a cure for migraines. Migraines are also a disease that can be easily misdiagnosed but with the right doctors, and diagnosed correctly, treatment can be very manageable. Migraines are different from headaches because they create more problems both physically and emotionally for the person.
            I know migraines all too well, just like if it were the back of my hand. I have suffered from chronic migraines for the past five years. For migraines to be chronic you must have them more than fifteen days out of the month. Little did I know those few months of being thirteen would be the only months that I had of a normal teenage life; the migraines started when I was thirteen turning fourteen. From there on out my life has consisted of medication, examination, surgeries and experimentation, but this was just the medical aspect on what I went through. Emotionally and physically I would just sleep my days away and detach myself from my family and love ones. As much as I wanted to let migraines tear me down, I knew in my heart that I will become a stronger person because I have faces this challenge. That is why I believe that Bachmann would not make the commitment to running for president if she knew physically, mentally and emotionally she would not be able to fulfill her duties.
            There are many ways to manage having migraine headaches. There are two types of medications that are mainly used to treat migraines preventive and abortive. Preventive medication is something that you take daily so that it stops you from getting a migraine. Some commonly used preventive medications are beta-blockers, anti-depressants or anti-seizure. Abortive medication is used to treat and quickly stop migraine headaches in a middle of an attack. The most common name for abortive medication is “triptans” which are like Zomag or Maxalt. These medications are used when you have a migraine not to prevent them.  “Triptans” cannot be used more than two days a week because they are known to cause rebound headache which will cause you to take more medicine that can harm you liver or other organs.
            You may be asking yourself is medication the only way this can be treated? Isn’t there surgery that can be done or something else that is not so harmful on the body?  Acupuncture is a commonly method that is where a doctor inserts and manipulates fine needles at various, pressure points on the body. Biofeedback is use as relaxation therapies designed to control the body's response to stress by doing deep breathing exercise and visualization. Chiropractors can be used to help relief pain through massage, spinal manipulation and periodic adjustment of joints and soft tissue.
            Within the past five years there has been a break through treatment for chronic migraine suffers. It is a surgery called the StimPath. There are four wires that are placed at four points on your head and all connect at a main point in at the back of the neck. Then these wires run down your back to your hip where it connects to a battery. The point of this device is to send electoral impulse to the nerves that are believed to cause the migraine. These electoral impulse interrupt the signal that the nerves are sending to the brain that there is pain present. The feeling of these wires is like a light massage on the forehead and back of head. I have had this surgery and it was like a miracle. I was pain free a few hours after the surgery. The surgery is a very long-lasting relief for people who suffer from chronic migraine and is minimal invasive on your body.
            Though migraines are very debilitating they don’t have to control your life. There are many treatment options out there for you to do trial and error with. For people who have not felt what it is like to have a migraine you should not be quick to pass judgment. Migraines have become a more common disease in America because of the amount of stress that is place on us from our jobs and family. I know from experience that migraines can be life changing, but with the right tools and life style changes they can become manageable. “Migraine does not discriminate. It affects individuals from all walks of life, professions, and cultures. What sets migraineurs apart is not who they are or what they do, but how they take control of their lives and their disease.” (Ford-Martin)
 Works Cited
Ford-Martin, P. (n.d.). Inspiration: Famous Migraineurs. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from www.netplaces.com.
John Merach, M. F. (n.d.). Migraine Headache in Children. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/migraine_headache_in_children/page2_em.htm.
Mirgraine Awareness Group: A National Understanding for Migraineurs. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 4, 2011, from Treatment and Alternative Therapies.
Warner, J. (2011). Me, Michele and Our Migraines. The New York Times, 3.

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