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My headaches make no sense!

Hi! I’ve been a migraine sufferer for about 10 years now. I’m a 27 year old woman in good health with the exception of the fact that I get chronic, inconsistent, headaches. In the past 2-3 years, they’ve gotten very bad and very inconsistent and I was wondering if some of my more puzzling symptoms make sense to anyone else.

I don’t get any sort of aura, but they do tend to start out with a fuzzy feeling in my head, almost as if I got up too fast. I get this fuzzy feeling a lot and sometimes it doesn’t turn in to anything and sometimes it turns in to a full blown migraine episode with nausea and vomiting and light sensitivity. On more severe episode days, I also have more frequent bowel movements. I can’t figure out how it’s related but it definitely is. I am someone with chronic constipation, infrequent and sometimes painful bowel movements. I have many other symptoms of undiagnosed IBS as well. However, during severe migraine episodes (pain level 7 or above) I always have frequent, easy bowel movements within a few hours of each other. Does anyone else experience gastrointestinal symptoms?

Traveling also seems to be related. Since August of 2016, I have traveled by plane 12 times. 7 out 12 of those times, I have had an episode of severe migraine (pain level of 8 or above) and vomiting within 24 hours of landing in my destination. They’ve been different destinations. Different types of weather, different times of years. Could pressure changes be a trigger? Is that a thing? I’ve tried to stay very hydrated but apparently that doesn’t work either. I also seem to have headache episodes that feel more like episodes of dehydration. They start with that fuzzy feeling, turn in to a headache at pain level of 5 or so and then severe nausea comes rather quickly. It escalates in to vomiting and the vomiting becomes very severe that I cannot keep anything, even water, down and require IV fluids/meds. By the time the repeated vomiting begins, the pain has subsided to a level 2 or 3 and only becomes inflamed to a level 5 or 6 during the actual act of vomiting and then subsides immediately back to 2 or 3 after I have finished that particular hurl. This has happened after being exposed to heat and sunlight for a period of time but it also happened at least twice within 24 hours after air travel. This feels different from a regular migraine episode where my headache stays consistent at a level 7 or above and I may only vomit 2 or 3 times.

This is quite a bit of information but I’m looking for some kind of sense that what I’m experiencing is normal for someone with this kind of condition. I didn’t realize until recently how much I do need to hear other people’s stories and opinions. I’ve been to PCPs in the past who don’t seem to listen and this summer I’m planning on seeing a specialist for the first time since I was a teenager. But it’s very frustrating to feel like “why does this happen to me” and any understanding is welcome. Thanks!

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  1. Hi there, -
    Thank you so much for sharing some of your journey with us. You are not alone in what you are experiencing! In fact, you fit right in here with us at migraine.com.

    First, let me just say I'm sorry to hear how your migraine pattern has become so frequent and yet inconsistent and challenging to manage. Sometimes when they hit often, but not everyday, it can be even more difficult to handle because we are not sure when they are coming. I've gone from episodic to chronic and back again and I've often found chronic (even though an incredibly tough road) a bit more easy to manage just because I know when the attacks are coming. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/emotional-roller-coaster-ride-chronic-episodic/

    Having gastrointestinal upset is a very common challenge for migraineurs. In fact, we have a forum dedicated to the topic: https://migraine.com/topic/diarrhea-and-constipation/. There is a real tie between the head and the gut -and unfortunately, when migraines hit, the gut responds in kind. https://migraine.com/blog/the-ugly-truth-poop-issues-and-migraine-disease/ Many of us have found relief through exploring some clean eating options through elimination diets (avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, etc) to quiet the gut: https://migraine.com/?s=elimination+diet

    As to travel being a trigger - YES! For several reasons. First, there is a phenomenon known as let down migraine which has to do with our bodies adjusting to change. Whether it be coming down from a stressful time with family, or simply relaxing over the weekend after a busy week- whatever the case, when we heave that heavy sigh or relief, and perhaps due to our cortisol levels shifting in response, many people experience an uptick in migraine attacks at that time. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/navigating-let-down-migraine/.

    And air travel does bring with it pressure changes in the cabin and therefore can cause attacks for many migraineurs. https://migraine.com/?s=air+travel.

    I'm sorry, also, to hear that you are dealing with frequent nausea and vomiting. I'm with you on that, personally. That symptom will stop you in your tracks like few others. One of the great things about our site is that our community is alive with people who are resources on the topic of migraine. Each one is an individual source of wisdom and guidance. Here's a great example, the comment section following this video has some great ideas about how to manage nausea and vomiting: https://migraine.com/video/secret-handle-nausea/

    Finally, I commend you on taking the step to reach out to find a specialist. A migraine specialist is the best equipped to be able to help you manage the complex neurological disease that IS migraine. As you have illustrated above, this condition is incredible far reaching and is not just about having a headache. Having someone partner with you who specializes in the disease is key to help you navigate and treat it. Specialists will also have the best chance of being in touch with the newest treatments available for migraine- and there are several that are worth exploring. You might ask your new doctor about CGRPs: https://migraine.com/clinical/cgrp-similar-different/ and Gammacore: https://migraine.com/video/gammacore-approved/.

    In case you need help finding a specialist in your area, this article has a link for migraine specialists across the U.S.: https://migraine.com/blog/the-mrf-directory-of-headache-and-migraine-specialists/

    It's so normal to be asking "why me?" when you're surrounded by peers who are not dealing with these same symptoms and challenges. Also, migraine is isolating by its very nature because we have to go to a quiet, dark room to be alone in order to quiet the pain. It's an invisible disease so there's no way to identify other people who have it. But there's no question- many others DO have it. Over 36 million of us in the U.S. alone. This site (and our facebook page, as well as other sites and support group pages) can help to connect you with others who are dealing with this disease.

    I hope you will keep sharing with us- please stay in touch - let us know how we can help you in providing information and support. We are here to do just that. Thinking of you.

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