I have been blessed with good health. I’m one of those people who just never gets sick. I haven’t had a cold or the flu in years. I never miss work. I consider all of this a blessing from God. Some might call it good genes. Saturday, when I got home from work, daughter was already there to eat supper with us. But, she had been fighting a severe headache, nausea and was throwing up. We gave her saltine crackers and seven up and she was unable to keep anything down. Worse than the nausea and the vomiting was the severe pain from the headache. She would try to take some pain medication and would end up throwing it up during the next run to the bathroom. I had never seen headache pain like this before. I had heard of people who had migraines before, but never seen it up close and personal. A few times, she was crying from the pain and the frustration of her inability to get better. She napped fitfully and it took from about 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. to get a little better. She went home to sleep in her own bed.
The next day, she came over on the way to work. She was once again affected by nausea and headache pain. We couldn’t understand it. She got progressively worse. After throwing up some chicken broth/soup we encouraged her to make a visit to the VA hospital for treatment. She went about 8p.m. They had trouble drawing blood so put her on an IV while checking her blood work. They gave her some anti-nausea and pain medicine in her IV to give her some relief. Her blood work came back normal. They decided she must have picked up a ‘little bug’. I said I’d hate to see the ‘big bug’ since the little one kicked her butt! They gave her a handful of pills for the nausea and for the headache. They cautioned her to only take one half of the pill saying that a whole one might put her out for about 14 hours. She went home to bed and took her medicine. That was before midnight last night and it is now noon. I haven’t heard from her yet so I guess she is still sleeping.
I decided to look up migraines to find out more about them. http://medicinenet.com had this to say:
A migraine headache is a form of vascular headache. Migraine headache is caused by vasodilatation (enlargement of blood vessels) that causes the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the large arteries of the brain. Enlargement of these blood vessels stretches the nerves that coil around them and causes the nerves to release chemicals. The chemicals cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. The increasing enlargement of the arteries magnifies the pain.
Migraine attacks commonly activate the sympathetic nervous system in the body. The sympathetic nervous system is often thought of as the part of the nervous system that controls primitive responses to stress and pain, the so-called “fight or flight” response, and this activation causes many of the symptoms associated with migraine attacks; for example, the increased sympathetic nervous activity in the intestine causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Sympathetic activity also delays emptying of the stomach into the small intestine and thereby prevents oral medications from entering the intestine and being absorbed.
- The impaired absorption of oral medications is a common reason for the ineffectiveness of medications taken to treat migraine headaches.
- The increased sympathetic activity also decreases the circulation of blood, and this leads to pallor of the skin as well as cold hands and feet.
- The increased sympathetic activity also contributes to the sensitivity to light and sound sensitivity as well as blurred vision.”
All of this was enough to make me cringe. I don’t handle pain that well and this sounds severe. Then I read what causes the migraines.
A migraine trigger is any environmental or physiological factor that leads to a headache in individuals who are prone to develop headaches. Only a small proportion of migraine sufferers, however, clearly can identify triggers. Examples of triggers include:
- sleep disturbances,
- bright or flickering lights,
- cigarette smoke,
- aged cheeses,
- monosodium glutamate,
- aspartame, and
For some women, the decline in the blood level of estrogen during the onset of menstruationis a trigger for migraine headaches (sometimes referred to as menstrual migraines).” BINGO! Daughter had said she tends to get severe headaches right before her period. So this must be what happens to her. Then I read about treatments. There was the typical rote advice about diet and exercise, plenty of sleep, stay away from too much caffeine and stress, etc. It almost sounded like they didn’t actually know what to do for some patients. And in severe cases they talked about prophylactic medications.
“Prophylactic medications are medications taken daily to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches. They are not taken once a headache has begun. There are several classes of prophylactic medications:
- beta blockers,
- calcium-channel blockers,
- tricyclic antidepressants,
- antiserotonin agents, and
Medications with the longest history of use are propranolol (Inderal), a beta blocker, and amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), an antidepressant. When choosing a prophylactic medication for a patient the doctor must take into account side effects of the drug, drug-drug interactions, and co-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.”
As with anything else, it sounds like it is trial and error to find what works best for you. This was too much information for me to absorb. After seeing Daughter’s pain, I just know I never want to experience a migraine for myself. I’ll stick to my arthritis pain that I am familiar with. For all of you out there who suffer from migraines, I am really sorry for what you have to suffer. I hope you have found a good doctor and some relief.