Separating Fact From Fiction


Dispelling Migraine Myths

Dispelling Migraine MythsAs if the pain of living with migraine wasn’t enough, there are many myths and misconceptions about migraines for you to contend with. There are even some doctors who are still not well-versed in the latest studies of this chronic condition.

Fact is when a sufferer first appeals to their doctor for help, the physician may miss the typical cluster of symptoms that makes up migraines, like severe headache, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and sensitivity to noises and smells. Sometimes, just getting diagnosed is an accomplishment.

The World Health Organization stated in a 2011 report that “lack of knowledge among health-care providers is the principal clinical barrier to effective headache (including migraine) management.”

According to this report, a deficit in education is the cause, since non-specialist physician undergraduate medical training included only four hours regarding headache and migraine; and specialist (neurologist) training included 10 hours. It is not unheard of for some patients to have their migraine symptoms dismissed as stress, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or depression.

Let’s look at a few of the most common myths, and the facts to debunk them.

It Is Just a Bad Headache

This is so far from the truth. Migraine is a debilitating, neurological condition that affects millions of people and can negatively impact one’s quality of life, work, relationships and daily functioning.

Science has proven there is a difference between a migraine and a headache. With an ordinary headache what typically occurs is a narrowing of blood vessels within the head, which can easily be eased by taking over the counter aspirin or other pain relievers. But migraines are caused by the swelling and expansion of blood vessels, and though certain treatments may provide migraine relief, there is no cure and many remedies simply do not work on this level of pain. Some migraines last for 72 hours, compared to a bad headache lasting for an afternoon.

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Migraines Occur Only in Women

It is not a women-only condition. Women have more incidents in their lives where their hormones fluctuate than men do; menstruation, menopause, pregnancy. Since hormones can play a role, migraines do affect more women than men, but men get them as well.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF), a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization that offers support and information, about 18% of women versus 6% of men suffer from migraines.

If You Don’t See Flashing Lights It’s Not a Migraine

You do not need to experience an aura for it to be migraine. An aura is a neurological symptom in which you have temporary visual, sensory, and/or language disturbances with or without pain. Fact is only about one-third of migraineurs experience an aura.

Next page: more migraine myths.

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