There's Hope !
Last updated: April 2013
I have classic migraine. Had it since about age 8 when I began to experience 'aura', intense pain, nausea followed by vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound etc. Fortunately, episodes occurred only 2-3 per year, 10-12 hours per episode. The 'aura' itself lasted 20-30 minutes. My father, also a life long classic migraine sufferer, told me what it was.
I'm now 69, and I still get migraines. Yet there's hope, because while I get the 'aura', I no longer get the pain. For those whose ordeal reads similar to mine, read on, your path is likely to follow mine.
My 'aura' began as a simple blind spot which I often detected when trying to read and noticing that there were a few letters in a word I couldn't see. Over the next 30 minutes, it then progressed to multiple blind spots increasing in size and accomanied by shimmering lightning-bolt like shapes which migrated from near my center of vision outward to my vision's periphery and then they sort of morphed off the 'page'.
Shortly thereafter the pain would begin, intensifying over the first 5 hours then slowly receding.
As I reached my early 20's I had heard about so-called food/stress triggers, but I could never get a clear asociation. What I began to suspect was that there was some chemical release in the brain which caused blood vessels to dilate and press against the optic nerve causing the so'called' aura. I then surmised that as the increasing dilation was directly correlated with the migration of the 'aura' described above. The pain to me was similar to a prolonged 'ice cream headache', which most are familiar with, except that the restoration of the blood vessels to normal size took considerably longer. But it was the vessel shrinkage that was the source of the pain.
Of course, if I mentioned this to a doctor, he'd simply ignore it as the bleatings of the terminally uninformed.
Then some decades later, medical research began to suspect that - EUREKA! - there was a chemical release in the brain and vascular changes 'associated' with migraines.
Now this isn't meant as an 'I TOLD YOU SO' moment. It's meant as potential map of hope based on how my headaches have migrated since then.
As I got into my 40's I began to notice that the headaches still came with metronomic frequency, but that the pain was starting to diminish. This continued into my 50's by which time the 'aura' phenomenon was still largely there, but the pain had virtually disappeared. I also began to notice that I'd occasionally get a headache in the morning rather than the 4-4:30 PM onset which I could almost literally set my watch by.
So for those readers whose jouney sounds similar to mine, you may still get the 'aura', but the pain may well ameliorate. Of course, I have a hypothesis as to why that is, and it's the typical good news/bad news scenario attendant to much of things medical.
Hypothesis: the reason the pain diminishes as one ages, is because the blood vessels have begun to harden and therefore do not dilate as much as when the were 'young'. Ergo, they don't have to constrict as much and the pain is lessened.
However, this may not be the final chapter, if your journey parallels mine. But is is information which may lessen any consternation you have over your migraine's next course.
When I reached my late 50s, I awoke one morning about 6 AM. At 6:30 I had a migraine, and I'd never had one that early before. It followed its usual course, but then I had two more that same day, and 1 each the following two days, and by the time a week had passed, I had a total of 7. Over the course of the next 18 months I averaged about 1 headache a week, sometimes 3 in a week, followed by none the next, etc. I noticed that this change in frequency seemed to be correlated with certain signs of male 'menopause, when age-related hormonal changes were occurring. Once those hormonal changes largely ceased, the headaches returned to what had always been their more normal frequency, and I have actually gone as much as a year without a single headache.
Of course, I hope the medical research leads to a quicker solution than have migraine relief be the silver lining in aging's dark cloud.
My best wishes to all who still suffer.
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?