Simple Guide to Understanding Triggers and Precursors of Migraines.

From the very beginning, I’m going to get this straight, I am an expert solely by personal experience and nothing else. My only hope from this article is that maybe someone will read it and think they can understand their migraines and triggers better. Many foods, sounds, smells and lights can trigger a migraine. Understanding triggers and precursors are the best way to prevent a migraine but can be the hardest things to figure out.

My experience:

-I’ve experienced migraines since I was 15 years old, developing chronic migraines in my early 20s.

-I have been seeing a Neurologist for over a year to get my migraines under control.

-I am currently taking three types of preventative medications every day.

-I experience most commonly migraines with aura.

-I experience aura symptoms more commonly than migraine pain.

-My worst migraine so far was a Hemiplegic Migraine to which I lost minor sensation in my left arm and leg.

-The longest I’ve ever experienced a continuous migraine is 12 days.

 

My Triggers:                                        My Precursors:

-High fat foods/grease                                             -losing words

-Dark chocolate                                                         -blurred vision

-Alcohol (mainly red wine/ spirits)                        -inability to concentrate

-Dehydration                                                             -hearing focusing on wrong subject.

-Lack of sleep                                                            -tiredness

-Stress                                                                        -dullness in taste

-Heat                                                                           -sore neck

-Hunger                                                                     -sensitivity to light

                                                                                    -shooting nerve pain in between eyes.

Things that helped:

-Going off contraceptive pill (do NOT take oestrogen pill with aura migraine!)

-Having regular meals.

-Seeing a neurologist.

-Taking my preventative medication on time, every day.

-Wearing sunglasses outside, all the time.

-Trying not to get overly stressed (unload work/distress with yoga or writing etc.)

-Taking ibuprofen and paracetamol as soon as the precursors arise.

Codeine and ibuprofen is a migraine sufferers best friend.

Triptans are migraine life savers, find one that works best for you (took me three tries).

My migraine tale:

Over the years, I’ve been very confused as to why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I used to think that my migraines were either hay fever or depression related rather than being an issue all on their own. And so I treated the aforementioned problem but never the migraine and wondered why I never felt better. One thing I didn’t realise was how much I had incorporated normal headache pain into my life. I had a constant headache over the span of a year when I was 19 and didn’t think that it was irregular. After the headaches and migraines had slowly built up in intensity, I had to seek professional help because it was affecting my work and study. A few months later after trial and error on a few different pills my doctor gave me, I was referred to a neurologist.

During this time I was also taken off the contraceptive pill because of the types of migraines I was getting (aura). Apparently, aura and oestrogen don’t mix and severely increase the risk of stroke. Instead I was put on the Depo injection every three months. From the very beginning, I noticed a difference in my migraines. They weren’t nearly as frequent nor as intense. On the plus side as well, I no longer got my period, I didn’t have to remember my pill every day and  I was conquering my fear of needles every three months!

The neurologist was a little short and sweet, he asked me some questions and gave me a new preventative pill. I was in and out within 10 minutes and $60 was taken out of my bank. The knowledge of the pills was definitely worth the visit, the drop in migraines from the beta blockers and the extra preventative was very noticeable within a fortnight.

By the two month mark, they’d stopped working so well. I was getting visual disturbances like crazy, not too many painful migraines. A few painful headaches every now and then but the light sensitivity and visual disturbances were making me overly depressed. I went back to the neurologist who supplied me with an antiepileptic.

It worked the same as the pill before it. A few months, I felt great, then it got worse and the migraines came back. Now, this week I’ve had my first official full on migraine since taking the new preventative which really sucks. Considering I have to take six pills every night to still get migraines, it’s annoying.

I’m still trying all my triggers every now and then in hopes that they will no longer trigger me. But no, they really still do. The only thing that the preventatives are doing so far is stopping me from getting the awful migraines and getting headaches every single day. This I will be eternally grateful for, but as anyone who suffers from migraines will be able to tell you, a cure all is our dream.

Botox is my next option according to the Neurologist which I’m not all that excited for, as I said, I’m terrified of needles. I’ve always thought I’d wait until my 50s to get Botox, not in my early 20s. It really is an uphill battle, but figuring out how to deal with some of it is the best preventative there is available.

I hope this was helpful or relatable for those with migraines. For those reading this who don’t experience migraines, I hope this shows you how much migraines aren’t just ‘headaches’ and contain far more debilitating symptoms. Migraine awareness is a very important issue, as many are discriminated against from those who don’t understand the illness. Having migraines is depressing and painful, and we should all work to creating a better cure so no one has to go through this any more. I know I’m actually one of the lucky ones when it comes to this illness, as I’ve never ended up in hospital from it. I’ve seen the painful steroid shots they give those  in immense long term migraine pain, and I definitely don’t ever want to experience that.

Let me know your tips and tricks for migraines in the comments!

-Naomi V (22/11/16)

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