This Brain Awareness Week, learn about the different types of migraine and how people manage it. Featuring an important patient story from Niamh Reid
Migraine is a medical term we so often hear about, but how much do we actually know? The purpose of Brain Awareness Week is to create wide scale awareness so people with migraine and other sufferers know they are ‘not alone,’ learn to manage their condition and educate others. It is so important for the individual and healthcare professionals to know the varying types of migraine as the complex neurological condition is astoundingly the most common globally; affecting 12 – 15% of the worlds population. An incredible 1 in 10 people in Ireland live with migraine.
By reading about the varying types and Niamh Reid’s story, we will learn that it is a very individual condition, the way it manifests itself completely depends on the person and the type of migraine they might have. Some people experience only one or two attackes per year while others suffer on a weekly basis.
1. Most migraineurs suffer Migraine without Aura. Common symptoms include intense throbbing headache, usually on one side, worsened by movement, nausea/vomiting, light, noise, and smell sensitivity, neck and shoulders stiffness and blurred vision.
2. Migraine with Aura refers to neurological disturbances that occur before the headache, usually lasting 20-60 minutes. Roughly 20% of people with migraine experience ‘aura’ in addition to some or all the symptoms. Symptoms include blind spots, flashing lights, zig-zag patterns, pins and needles, slurring of speech, muscular weakness, loss of co-ordination, confusion.
3. Migraine Aura with ‘no headache’ – 1% experience migraine aura with no headache, symptoms are the same as Migraine with Aura minus headache.
4. Hemiplegic Migraine is a rare form of migraine where the person experiences many common symptoms, but may also suffer from temporary numbness, weakness or even paralysis (Hemiplegia). Common symptoms include once side of the face can fall which looks like a stroke, headache, visual disturbance, and aura (sparkles, shimmers), tingling in extremities, trouble speaking, confusion, brain fog, ataxia and/or fever.
5. Vestibular Migraine is a disorder which creates coordination issues with the sensory information that is sent to your brain from the eyes, muscles, bones, and vestibular organs inside the ears. Common symptoms: severe dizziness, vertigo, head, eyes, or body motion problems, diminished eye focus, tinnitus, muscle spasms in the upper spine.
6. Basilar Migraine is a rare type of migraine that includes symptoms such as loss of balance, double vision, blurred vision, difficulty speaking and fainting. During the headache, some people lose consciousness.
7. Ophthalmoplegic Migraine is an extremely rare type of migraine that occurs mainly in young people where there is weakness of one or more of the eye muscles. In addition to headache, symptoms include pupil dilation, inability to move eye direction, and eyelid drooping.
Niamh Reid, Migraine with stroke like symptoms
Niamh Reid is living with migraine with stroke like symptoms. She has found a way to live with the condition by understanding it, controlling the triggers when she can and holding onto hope. Her informative story and others are vital for educating us on the manifestation of a migraine.
Niamh says “Migraine is a complex neurological condition with symptoms that range far beyond a headache. For me, it manifests as Hemiplegic migraine. I don’t always get the intense headache. My migraine symptoms mimic a stroke, leading to hours, days, or weeks with numbness, tingling or weakness down one side of my body. I have chronic migraine, which means I have more than 15 headache days per month.”
After several failed treatments Niamh realised something needed to change. She had recently attended an online talk from The Migraine Association of Ireland with Dr. Nick Silver, who noted that migraine treatment should always start with lifestyle. With this in mind Niamh stopped waiting for a “silver bullet and focused on controlling the controllables,” while still working with her neurologist.
Niamh has turned her focus to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She cleverly views her migraine management like steadying a Jenga Tower. “I picture each brick of my “Jenga Tower” as an element of my lifestyle that keeps me on an even keel. Each time one shifts out of place the tower gets a little more unstable. Too many missing bricks, the tower crashes down and a migraine attack begins. This build-up of triggers or “wobbly bricks” causing an attack is called Migraine Threshold Theory. When I feel my tower wobbling, I focus on tapping each little brick back into place with good sleep, regular healthy meals, regular exercise, mindfulness, hydration, and nature, particularly sea swims.”
Niamh says that talking openly about her condition has helped her relationships immensely. Her friends and family understand now that she may need to cancel plans or leave early. She confesses “Has this approach “cured” my migraine? No. Has it made my life much more manageable? Absolutely. Some days I climb a mountain, some days I climb under a blanket and that’s ok.” Let Niamh’s inspiring words resonate, whether you yourself are suffering or you know someone who is. Niamh says “If you live with migraine, know that ‘you are not alone’! Chip away at the little things you can do, control the controllables, and hold onto hope.”
Niamh Reid @exploringireland
THE MIGRAINE ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND
The Migraine Association of Ireland is Ireland’s only patient charity that provides information, support, education and reassurance to the 600,000 people suffering with migraine and headache disorders in Ireland. They seek further research, better treatments, access to care and increased public awareness of the condition. The Migraine Association of Ireland say that employers can reduce sick days per year if they were more aware of migraine as a condition and how wide reaching it is. The Association has actually added up to €240 million in losses for the Irish economy alone which could be easily avoided if employers were more educated about migraine.
MAI services include free educational events, courses to help people manage their migraine, and certified HP courses for General Practitioners and other health care professionals. In addition, they lobby and advocate on behalf of migraineurs for access to new treatments and better access to care. If you or someone close to you suffers from migraines, it is important to understand their illness. It will make their life more manageable, as proven by Niamh.
For more information, visit www.migraine.ie