my doc says my headaches are migraines but I think NO; what do you think?
Last updated: October 2020
I am a 44 yr old woman. I've had fairly frequent headaches throughout my adult life. As an adult, I've developed seasonal allergies which once or twice a year set the stage for a sinus infection. Up till now, I've assumed my headaches were either sinus and/or tension bc they didn't fit the classic migraine signs. I've never had decent health insurance. I tried numerous OTC painkillers, sinus meds, decongestants. NOTHING HELPED AT ALL. But the decongestants gave me horrible constipation. Yuck.
This summer my allergies caused me respiratory problems like wheezing, a constant tiny stream of drainage, and a dry cough. [Now, I'm fortunate to, temporarily at least, have good health insurance.] My family doctor put me on Zyrtec, Singulair, and Flonanse. and saline nasal spray as often as I can possibly use it. My breathing problems quickly resolved. I have stayed on the allergy meds.
In September, I started getting much more frequent headaches. i had no congestion. My allergies were all cleared up. But the pain was around my eyes so I figured it was my sinuses. My doctor wouldn't give me antibiotics without the classic yellow/green drainage. He wants me to switch from regular Zyrtec to ZyrtecD. While I'm in his office, I forget that I can't take decongestants.
On the next appointment, I try to better describe my headaches. It's like this.
Headache Pain Scale 0-10, with 0 being an awesome pain-free moment. A 10 is a tooth abscess, writhing in pain. A level 1-2 for me means there is a pressure behind my eyes. 90% of everyday, I stay at a level 1-2. Then at some point I usually go up to a 3, 4, or 5.
But before I go up and STICK at the 3 or 5, numerous times each day my pain will spike up to a 4 and then go right back down to a 2. Each time, I'm scared, "Oh, No. I don't want a headache."
Most of the time, the pain is behind my eyes but is occasionally hurts my ears - a shooting, piercing pain. But sharp pain doesn't last long. Sometimes, it much hurts worse behind one eye momentarily but then it goes back to even painful pressure on both eyes. So far this doesn't sound anything like a migraine to me. Until my headache is a level 5, I can function albeit not very efficiently and I certainly am frazzled. People I've known who suffered with migraines were totally debilitated. They didn't have this crazy constant low-grade headache like mine. The only similarity my headache has to migraines is the light hurts my eyes and odors make me feel nauseous (although I've never vomited). Noise is very painful to endure, but isn't that true in the case of all headaches?
In November, my family doc says we should try a migraine preventative medicine. He put me on Topamax. 50mg did nothing so he just said to bump up to 75mg. I've also been seeing a Chiropractor bc I think some of my headaches start from tension in my neck. My doctor also referred me to an ENT who I've seen once; I was hoping for help with the tinnitus bc it makes the headaches SO MUCH HARDER TO TOLERATE. It's like a tiny preschooler is practicing violin INSIDE MY HEAD. They gave me the hearing test and I passed. Hooray! But I don't know what that means in regards to the ringing in my ears. That will be question #1 on my next visit. he got x-rays of my sinuses. I guess I'll see on my followup appointment if there's some hidden infection causing all this.
A few of factors to throw into the equation- I'm entering Peri Menopause; a have a sister who has 'classic' migraines; About 2-3 a year for the last 20 years, I have symptoms that are similar to the auras in a simple-petite seizure (getting an EEG soon).
Here's my question: does the headache I'm describing sound anything like a migraine?
In the past year, has insurance made it difficult to get your migraine treatment?