Migraines: Not every headache is just a headache

A headache is something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Maybe you were sick with the flu or maybe you missed your morning cup of coffee.

But for millions of Americans, a headache can be a frequent and debilitating disease which interferes with work, relationships, family time and personal interests. Headaches can affect your ability to participate fully in daily activities and can impact your personal interactions with others.

Migraine is one of the most common causes of recurring headaches and can be associated with the greatest disability. Migraines afflict about 28 million in the U.S. alone. About three out of four migraine sufferers are female, according to the American Headache Society. As many as 6 percent of all men and up to 18 percent of all women will experience a migraine headache at some time in their life.

Migraine sufferers experience head pain that is more severe than other headaches and is associated with symptoms that are more disabling – nausea, vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light), phonophobia (sensitivity to sound), osmophobia (sensitivity to smell), vision disturbances, difficulty speaking, dizziness, etc.

A real disease

It is important to understand that migraine is a brain disease that is genetically determined and environmentally influenced. Migraines can be triggered by numerous internal and external environmental factors, such as change in weather, menstrual cycle, insufficient sleep or poor eating. Common misconceptions about migraine are that it is due to stress or working on a computer. Those things can make migraines worse, but you get migraines because you have a migraine disorder, not because you have stress.

Unmanaged migraine disorders can have severe personal and financial consequences. There are opportunity costs for you and your employer such as missed meetings with important clients, poor mental acuity during a business presentation, loss of productivity and general suboptimal performance. Depending on the severity, headaches can lead to ER visits and hospitalizations.

Excessive use of over-the-counter medications can make the problem worse – especially headache medicines that often contain a lot of caffeine, which can contribute to patients developing chronic migraines.

Taking medicine for sinus and allergies also doesn’t work well because the underlying problem is a migraine.

People often think they are having a sinus headache, but when you question them about their symptoms and recurrence, it turns out they are actually having a migraine. In those cases, for example, the person does not have a fever or drainage typical of sinus headaches. Instead, they are experiencing a recurrence of head pain in the same area with a throbbing quality as well as nausea and sensitivity to light in severe instances. Surveys show that about 90 percent of the time people who thought they were having sinus headaches were actually having migraines.

You don’t have to suffer

If you are getting headaches or taking medicine more than two days a week, you should talk to your doctor to develop a successful treatment strategy. New and more effective prescription medications for headache prevention and to treat headaches are available, and more are coming as research continues.

Consulting with appropriately trained health care professionals that understand the treatment of migraine will provide you with a program specifically designed for managing your condition and providing you relief. There is treatment that will not only improve your functioning, but give you a better quality of life and better control.

You can take back control of your life. You can plan activities. You can say yes to life and no to headaches.

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