Migraine Management Essential 2: Education
When it comes to effective Migraine management, the saying, “Knowledge is power,” is right on target. There are many reasons to educate ourselves about Migraine disease.
Why educate ourselves?
Here are some reasons:
- Taking some of the mystery and confusion out of Migraine.
- Reducing fear of Migraine. It’s basic human nature to fear what we don’t understand.
- Recognizing the beginning of a Migraine attack better. Treating a Migraine works better when we treat early in the attack.
- Being better prepared to make treatment decisions. We can’t call our doctors every time we have a Migraine. We have to make decisions such as when and how to treat a Migraine for ourselves. The more we know, the better prepared we are to make these decisions.
- Better treatment outcomes. Studies have shown that patient education results in better compliance with treatment and better outcomes.
- Public awareness. Do people make comments or suggestions to you that show you they don’t understand Migraines? Have you experience the stigma of Migraine? If we learn about Migraine disease, we’re better prepared to share information with people who don’t understand.
What do we need to know about Migraines?
To some extent, what we need to know depends on how much we want to know. We should all know at least the basics in several areas, but some of us want to know more. Let’s take a look at some of those areas:
- What is Migraine? We should all know that Migraine is far more than a headache. In fact, some people have Migraine attacks with no headache, and for a diagnosis of Migraine, there must be additional symptoms. Migraine is a neurological disease though to be caused by genetics and overactive neurons in the brain.
- What’s the pathophysiology of Migraine? What’s happening to our bodies during a Migraine attack?
- What are the possible phases and symptoms of a Migraine attack? There are four possible phases: prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome. Not everyone experiences all four phases, and one Migraine can vary from the next, both in which phases we experience and in which symptoms we experience. Each phase also has potential symptoms that can vary from person to person and Migraine to Migraine. You can find more on the phases and their potential symptom in Migraine Phases.
- How is Migraine treated? We need to know the difference between preventive, abortive, and rescue treatment. Understanding the various forms of treatment for Migraine helps us know when to treat our Migraines and how to treat them. It also lets us work better with our doctors.
- What is the full impact of Migraine? There is still a great deal of stigma attached to Migraine. If we understand the impact of Migraine, both on Migraineurs and those close to them and on society, we’re better prepared to enlighten others and do our part to bust the stigma.
Educating ourselves about Migraine is an ongoing process. More is being learned about Migraine, more than we might think. For example: For many years, the “vascular theory” of what happens in the brain during a Migraine was the prevalent theory. Basically, it was thought that when we encounter a trigger, blood vessels in the brain dilated, causing inflammation of surrounding nerves and tissue and causing the pain of a Migraine. We now know that vasodilation doesn’t always occur, and when it does, it’s not the first event following exposure to a trigger. It’s preceded by neuronal activity called cortical spreading depression. In addition to advancing knowledge of the pathophysiology of Migraine, research is ongoing into new treatments, the relationship between Migraine and other conditions such as stroke and other cardiovascular conditions and events, depression, and others.
In closing, I want to share a comment made by Dr. William Young of the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia. When asked his view on educated patients, Dr. Young responded,
“An educated patient is a better patient. I’d far rather have a treatment partner than a dishrag.”