The Two Minute Guide to Migraines

Migraine is a disease that lasts a lifetime, but if you’ve got just two minutes I can tell you why it’s NOT a headache… Go ahead, look at the clock. I know you want to…

Migraine is a genetic neurologic disease. The cause is in our genetic code — our DNA. The cause is not stress, something I ate or did yesterday or this morning, although these things can make an attack more likely to happen. Just because I have Migraine doesn’t mean that either of my parents had to suffer Migraine, or that my children will suffer Migraine attacks, although it’s true this is more likely the case. Although we don’t entirely understand all we need to about Migraine genetics, scientists think that for some people, the gene that gives them Migraine may need to be *turned on* at some point in their life or they may not ever suffer a Migraine attack.

Migraine is about my brain and how it functions neurologically. It isn’t necessarily about the blood vessels in my brain, although they can play a part too. So can my immune and other body systems. How my brain functions as a Migraineur isn’t any more in my direct control than how the brain of an autistic child, or a person with ADD, Parkinson’s disease or epileptic seizures can be controlled by the patients who have those neurological disorders.

Migraine can’t be tested for. There are no positive Migraine labs or imaging. We recognize the symptoms and make sure it’s nothing that will be more easily treated by testing for everything else. Scientists have located several Migraine genes, and the day may come that we can test for those genes in our DNA, but until then don’t expect me or my doctor to understand why I have debilitating Migraine attacks.

Migraine can be excruciating, but it isn’t a pain condition, and pain medicines can actually be the worst thing to give a patient during an attack. The best treatment is to abort the Migraine attack, and the pain will disappear with it. Migraine doesn’t even have to have pain associated with it, although pain is one possible component to an attack.

The symptoms and pain of Migraine are much like a spectrum disorder. While one person may treat themselves by taking an over the counter pain medicine and be fine until the attack has resolved itself, others are disabled. Rarely Migraine can even be fatal when it either results in a stroke, or so much untreated pain that the patient gives up and chooses death over life with their disease. Accidents also take the lives of Migraineurs — overdoses, car accidents, even side effects of the medicines we are forced to take, often in amazing quantities. The World Health Organization stated that a severe Migraine attack is more disabling than quadriplegia.

*Looking at my watch* How did I do?

Migraine is much more than a headache. Those without Migraine may never understand what living with Migraine is like, but they can understand that it is hard, and they can support us in our daily lives.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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