Friday, 13 July 2012


You consult a doc. but he is of no help as all his diagnoses- general weakness, lack of sleep, sinusitis & stress- didn’t seem right. Because despite all your efforts to combat the etiology, “your head still hurts” & perhaps “you’re tired of getting headaches”.
             Most of us who have gone through this have later learnt that they are the victims of MIGRAINE.
             Migraine has been around for a long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates was familiar with its symptoms. So was the ayurved guru Sushruta. Centuries later, Galen noted the migraine’s one-sided head pains & called it Hemicrania, from which comes today’s name.           
             One accepted theory states that migraine is primarily a brain disorder due to changes in serotonin levels (stored in hypothalamus) which cause cranial blood vessels to dilate & contract, causing the pain.
             During a migraine attack, the sufferer becomes very sensitive to sound & light. Before it sets in, some also experience an “aura”, most commonly as visual hallucinations. The aura can last about 20 minutes to an hour, producing vivid flashes, jagged stars, dazzling mosaic patterns & may also cause a blind spot known as SCOTOMA. These visual effects can be terrifying. “My vision grew patchy & I couldn’t see parts of my colleagues.” as said by a magraineur.
             An interesting facet of this is “MELLONTOPHOBIA”--- fear of losing ones job, which indeed haunts many magraineurs.
             It is prudent that the sufferer keep a detailed diary of each attack to help identify & guard against the TRIGGER FACTORS. Most attacks are due to a combination of triggers such as lack of food; or occasionally due to specific foods- chocolate, dairy products, alcohol, monosodium glutamate; hormonal changes, stress, altered sleeping patterns etc.
             Treatment by simple over-the-counter drugs --- aspirin, paracetamol may prevent an anticipated attack. But finding the correct treatment is not always an easy task. “It may take time for the doc. to find out what works best for you. And once it’s found, you get a new lease on life.” The anti-migraine drug, Sumatriptanis very effective, with the same chemical base as serotonin. It seems to reduce the painful swelling in the cranial blood vessels. But it may cause chest pain, dizziness & drowsiness for a short while.
Various other remedies like one being extract of plant feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has prevented attacks or lessened their severity. Brisk walking, swimming or jogging may help by releasing endorphins, which have pain-relieving properties. Also homeopathic remedies, acupuncture & yoga are being employed. Since no method works for everybody, the best approach is “a combination of medication & non-pharmacological treatments.”
             Not withstanding all these modalities of treatment, one has to adjust to the “restrictions of life” as a “magraineur”. And despite it costing & affecting the lives of myriad individuals, migraine is not taken seriously.
“Most people still feel it’s just a fashionable term for a headache!”

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