Friday, August 10, 2007

Migraines and strokes

One of today’s news stories caught my attention: Women with aura-type migraines at risk of stroke: study. That’s me. I get visual auras – not all the time, but often enough. One half of each eye, usually the right half of the visual field, becomes fuzzy with lines zigzagging across. When this happens, I can’t read or drive, because it’s both eyes. And then the migraine hits. I suppose it’s better than when the migraine hits without warning, but if I could have a choice, I could do without both or either, thank you very much.

Migraines are very common. According to statistics, up to 17% of women and 6% of men have had at least one migraine. Some people have occasional migraines, but some experience chronic migraines. These, according to the, are migraines that occur 15 or more days per month. The National Headache Foundation reports that 80% of migraines are severe and up to 24% of people with migraines have had to go to the emergency room.

What causes migraines? We don’t really know but we do know that there are many triggers. The most well-known ones are migraines that occur with a woman’s menstrual cycle or the ones that occur when some people drink red wine or eat chocolate. Other triggers can be:

- Alcohol
- Allergies
- Bright lights
- Changes in weather patterns
- Lack of or too much sleep
- Loud noises
- Skipping meals
- Stress (physical or emotional)
- Strong odours

There are treatments for migraines. Some people do well with prophylactic, or preventative, treatments. These medications have to be taken regularly in order to prevent the migraine from happening and don’t do any good if the migraine has struck. These medications include antidepressants, heart/blood pressure medications called beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants. Some people do well with alternative treatments such as feverfew.

For those who can’t take preventative medications or for whom they are not effective, treatments for the migraine pain are available. Some are specific for migraine while others are pain relievers that work for them.

Medications aren’t the only way to go. Many people find relief from alternative treatments, including yoga, biofeedback, or going into a dark room and avoiding all painful stimuli. Others don’t get any relief and end up having to wait it out.

Don’t forget, children can also have migraines that don’t present as head pain. Abdominal migraines, severe, unexplainable abdominal pain can actually be migraines. If your child experiences these, unfortunately, that can be a sign that he or she will develop the traditional head pain once they hit puberty.

The article that I mentioned above does mention that the risks of stroke if you have visual migraine can be lowered if you follow the usual guidelines for stroke prevention. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, these include reducing or managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes, and stress, quitting smoking, becoming more physically active, losing weight, decrease alcohol consumption, and managing stress. Added risk factors include having heart disease and being female. I guess there’s nothing much I can do about that last risk factor…

News for Today:
Health Canada investigates Losec, Nexium for heart risks
Nexium, Prilosec: No Heart Risks Seen
FDA Review Shows No Risk of Heart Attack, Heart Failure, or Heart-Related Sudden Death

Women with aura-type migraines at risk of stroke: study
Despite claims, not all probiotics can treat diarrhea say experts
Fear Of Pain Puts Backache Sufferers At Further Risk
Are Preventive Treatments Just Changing Cause Of Death In The Elderly, Rather Than Prolonging Life?

ANNOUNCEMENT: I've published a book! Oscar's Diaries, Life as a Retired Greyhound is now available on - see the note in the side bar, under my photo for information. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Greyhound Health and Wellness Program, run by Guillermo Couto, DVM, dip. ACVIM, at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

1 comment:

Lois Karlin said...

Congratulations on the book! As for the migraines...I've had migraine with aura for decades. Neurologist tried just about every possible preventative med on me. For several years I had botox injections in my head/neck/shoulders, which greatly reduced both the frequency and severity. Then I discovered a qualified Atlas Orthagonal practitioner. Now they're gone!!!