Monday, April 11, 2011

Migraine's Stink

Ugh - I have a wicked migraine today. It is almost gone thanks to Relpax. I am reluctant to take prescription drugs for these so I suffered most of the day with only Anacin before I caved. I don't know why I just didn't take Relpax hours ago as I'd be done with the migraine by now.

I have had migraines as long as I remember. I often complained about headaches as a child and my mother, whom I do love and like but who had very little patience for complainers, used to call me "George" after her father, the hypochondriac. Anyway, when I was about 15 I decided that I had to do something about the headaches so I went to the doctor (changed doctors on my own since I didn't like our family doctor). Now, I don't believe my migraines are hormone-related because I do not get them around my period. Some of my triggers are dehydration, stress, smelly perfumes, not eating frequently enough (rarely get them from this ;), Chinese food (probably from MSG), lack of sleep, and changes in the weather as well as sometimes the reason I get them are a mystery. I think today's migraine was brought to me by the weather change although today was a high pressure day not a low pressure day so who knows if that were it or not.

When I was in my late teens I went to a neurologist. I had an EEG where they stuck what looked like little push-pins attached to wires into my head. This was the pre-HIV/AIDS era because I am certain they use sticky electrodes rather than push-pin kind. I know those push-pin kind were reused too and I remember my cousin (who accompanied my to the visit as my parents were at work) was so grossed out when I came out with dozens of little bloody dots on my head. Anyway, the EEG showed normal brain movement and no signs of a tumour (whew!).

My migraines often were accompanied by visual disturbances. I recall the first time I experienced a visual disturbance before a migraine. I was a student and was working part-time in a movie theatre ticket box and I lost my peripheral vision. I only had vision right in the very centre for about 15 minutes and I was so scared that I was having a stroke. I had to hold the money people gave me out to the side to see if it were a $5, $10 or $20! As my vision came back, a crushing migraine came with it. I almost vomit ted in the ticket office! I had to run out and I threw up in the bathroom. I know exactly what my trigger was that time. My co-worker's perfume! It was called Ciara and she would douse herself in it. On top of that, she had this horrible rotten cheese body odour and to this day, if I smell Ciara I will retch.

It was a few years later I was working in a bank and I lose my centre vision and could only see out of the periphery. It was very interesting for that 20 minutes trying to check people's signatures and filling in bank forms when I had to hold the form off to the side and try to write while looking straight ahead. Again, when my vision returned, the mind-blowing pain came with it.

In the years since, I have had only a few more visual disturbances that signaled a migraine onset. Once it was like wavy lines, and another, it was like I was looking through a kaleidoscope. I have had the lost peripheral vision again too but now I know when visual disturbances happen 1) I am not having a stroke and 2) these migraines will be the worst!

I have also used different migraine medications over the years. One doctor had me on a daily medication to hopefully stop them from coming but I often forgot to take the medication. So often I would just suffer through them with a cold wash cloth on my head while lying absolutely still in a darkened room.

Then in 1992, a miracle! Imitrex was approved for use in Canada. It was the best drug ever for my migraines. I could take one tablet and within 10 minutes the pain would start to dissipate and within an hour (max!) the pain would be gone as well as the crushing pressure of the migraine. I would often get a migraine "hangover" with some slurred or thick speech and feel a little dopey. But I could actually stay at work with a migraine and the quality of my life improved.

Then in late '93, Stephen and I were married and I moved to the States. I had no medical insurance and even worse - no Imitrex! I found out that they were still doing clinical trials for Imitrex and that the tablet had not been approved for sale here yet. They did have the auto-injector though and I signed up with the manufacturer and was able to get Imitrex auto-injectors FREE. The problem was, have you ever tried to inject yourself while suffering from a migraine. I wasn't sure which was worse. The pain of the migraine or the anticipation of the pain from the injector (while it was no overly painful, the injector was definitely not pain-free!).

Anyway, finally the pill form was introduced here in the States (right about the time that I got health insurance) so I took Imitrex by tablet again although my insurance company would only prescribe 6 at a time.

I stopped taking Imitrex around the time that we decided to start a family and I will tell you that while I was pregnant, I was virtually migraine-free! This made me think for a while that the migraines could have been partially hormone-related but I think it was mostly because I was eating regularly and drinking tons of water, all the while reducing the stress in my life because I had gone into pre-term labour at 28 weeks which fortunately was stopped and I was put on bed rest.

Also, since moving to the Pacific Northwest in '99, I have had far fewer migraines. I think this is mostly to do with the weather. The oppressive, muggy, humid and suffocating summer weather in Minneapolis and Toronto were big migraine triggers for me. And in '04 when we went to Florida for a vacation, I had a migraine most of the 10 days that we were there. Ugh, who could live there?! I had to suffer without Imitrex that whole trip because I was nursing Cars and although I was told it was "safe", I refused to take it while pregnant and nursing any of my children.

A few years ago, my doctor's PA suggested that I try Relpax rather than Imitrex. It is in the same "triptan" class as Imitrex and it seems to work well for me (although not nearly as quickly). It does not give me the same feelings of heaviness and thickness in my chest and throat when I take it which I do like though so I give up one for the other.

Anyway, it has been two and a half hours since I have taken Relpax and the pain in my head is gone but I still have pressure. And I have a migraine "hangover". Stephen just texted me that his plane has landed (he went to Toronto to see his parents - his mom is going through cancer treatments) so I had better run and at least load the dishwasher from today's breakfast dishes. I might even be able to throw some dinner together for the kids (no promises at this point).

In the meantime, I am watching Dex and seeing that he is a migraine sufferer and I hurt for him because I know what it will mean for him for the rest of his life. (they do tend to run in the family - two aunts, my dad and my oldest brother all had/have them). Hopefully Dex won't have them as often or as badly as I do.

My brother posted this article to me on Facebook today:

Headaches might ease as you age

I guess I have that to look forward to.

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