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Recurring Headaches

I have been dealing with migraines all my life. It was worst during my teens. I was sometimes out for days, unable to eat, holed up in a dark room. I couldn’t take pain killers since nothing would stay in my stomach. When I got older, migraines attacked less frequently. For a while, everything seemed fine, but then they came back. About 15 years ago I went through a battery of test, CAT scans and visits with specialists to make sure that they was not some other underlying ailment causing my headaches. There wasn’t.

And then came Imitrex. I think a neurologist suggested to try out this “new” medication around 1992. It was a self-administered injection, a bit scary, but tablets were no option for me. And it worked! I could wait much longer into a migraine attack before medicating myself, and the effects of Imitrex would usually set in about 15 minutes after the injection. In most cases, it would thwart the attack altogether.

At the same time, my neurologist came up with another plan: regular medication to reduce the frequency and/or severity of the migraine headaches. For a couple of years I tried a number of different medications with mixed results until settling with Topamax. It had the fewest side effects, and after a while, the migraines seemed to stop. For four years I did not have any migraines.

Until six weeks ago. Suddenly, those headaches started again. I was so taken by surprise that I did not even have any Imitrex in the house. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at the Topamax dosage. Maybe it is time to change medication.

An interesting book about migraines is Oliver Sacks’ Migraine. I found it a worthwhile read even though I believe that the fundamental causes of migraine headaches are physical, not psychological — but I must admit that I found the book because I was fascinated by the title of one of the other Oliver Sacks books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. A different approach (and perhaps more to your liking) is taken in the book Migraines for Dummies.

But whether you believe that migraines have physical or psychological causes, whether you think they are brought on by chocolate, red wine or ripe cheese — one thing is pretty certain: if an Aspirin or a Tylenol can cure it, it ain’t a migraine.


One Response to “Recurring Headaches”

  1. Mary Kay says:

    Excellent point about the tylenol and other OTC drugs. They may help with very low grade migraine in the beginning of the headache phase, but for the majority of help what so ever!

    Triptans are a miracle drug..I remember when I was told..”well it is just a headache”. Now I couldn’t live without dose for my occasional migraine and I am off and running.


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