Lying in bed with the blinds shut tight to keep the light out is what the average sufferer does when they are struck with a migraine. Imagine the following scenario: a woman lies still with the blankets and sheets wrapped tightly around her form, especially her head. She dares not move or else the intense throbbing on the left side of her head will worsen. The phone lays silent next to her. It is her birthday and the phone should be ringing off the hook but she has it on silent mode. The thought of ignoring her birthday wishers saddens her, but she knows how much the sound of their voices bombing through the phone would increase the pounding of her head. She is supposed to be at work but had to call in the night before. Her boss hadn’t taken it well, not quite believing that she had any ailment. He kept insisting that she try to sleep off the headache, but she knew what the weird, dull pain in her eyes meant. This was day one of a migraine that may last a couple of days. Her work was already beginning to suffer, not to mention the undone assignments for school thrown on her desk. This was a day among many, and for her, a migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is life.
Though a fictional character, this figure in the bed represents the 32 million people in America who suffer from migraines. According to the WHO, a migraine is a common type of headache disorder. The headache itself is merely one of the symptoms of a migraine. Other symptoms are nausea or vomiting, chills, increased urination, fatigue, decrease in appetite, numbness, tingling, problems concentrating or finding words, sensitivity to light or sound, and sweating. Some migraine sufferers may experience what is known as an aura or warning sign prior to the onset of a headache. An aura is usually a visual disturbance such as blurred vision, pain in the eyes, or a temporary blind spot. Migraines are more common in women than in men and may run in families.
There are many factors linked to migraines that make them much more than a severe headache. There have been studies linking migraines to brain damage. Research has also shown that women who suffer from migraines with aura may have an increased risk for stroke. Ranked among the top 20 of the world’s most disabling medical illnesses, migraines are responsible for causing financial and societal burdens to countries around the world. In the United Kingdom an estimated 25 million working or school days are lost each year due to migraines.
Despite these findings many doctors do not take migraines seriously. It is said that every 10 seconds someone visits the ER seeking treatment for a migraine. For a disorder that is so common, migraines remain the most misdiagnosed, mistreated and misunderstood of all disorders.
Migraines are headache disorders which encompass much more than the headache, yet they are not yet recognized by the public as being serious. The World Health Organization recognizes the burdens caused by headache disorders as a whole. With the help of Lifting the Burden, a non-governmental organization, the WHO has started an initiative to raise awareness and improve quality of care for headache sufferers around the world.
By Earnestine Jones