Migraines

A few months ago, I had an incident where my vision went all wonky for about 15 minutes, then I got a fairly bad headache right afterward. The vision problem was pretty scary, since I’m at risk for some serious eye problems, but since it cleared up on its own, I knew it wasn’t that. So I figured it was just some kind of weird headache, and forgot about it. Then, it happened again about a month later, then again a month after that. So I went ahead and saw my doctor.

To make a long story short, I guess I have migraines now. Initially, we thought it might be something else, because there’s no history of migraines in my family, and I’m a bit old to start getting migraines out of the blue with no previous experience. But I went for an MRI, and they didn’t find anything else, and said the MRI was consistent with migraines.

It’s been almost a month since my last one, so either I’m due for another one soon, or maybe I’m going to get lucky and they’ll go away on their own. (Yeah, I know that’s not likely.)

I didn’t really know much about migraines before I started getting them. Apparently, what I’m getting is called migraine with aura, and it’s pretty common.

I mentioned the migraines on Facebook, and I’ve gotten a lot of advice, some of which is probably good, and some of which is probably nonsense, but of course it’s hard to tell which is which.

For drugs, my doctor prescribed Imitrex, which appears to be a fairly well-established and safe medicine.  Some friends have recommended Excedrin Migraine, which also sounds like a reasonable thing to try. As long as I’m getting only one migraine a month, I imagine that I should be able to manage things with an occasional Imitrex or Excedrin.

One friend recommended Migravent, which is a supplement containing butterbur, which sounds like something out of a Harry Potter novel, but is actually a plant that might help with both allergies and migraines. The supplement industry, in general, is a poorly-regulated mess, and I take any claims about supplements with a grain of salt. But there does seem to be some indication that butterbur is actually useful. So, eh, maybe I’ll get a bottle of this stuff and give it a try.

There’s a lot of talk online about migraine triggers. So far, if I had to guess what’s triggering my migraines, I’d say exercise and bright light might have something to do with it. All of them happened on days when it was sunny out and I’d done a fair bit of walking outside during the day. The NYT had an article about this recently which indicates that exercise might indeed be a trigger but light probably isn’t. But it doesn’t seem like there’s really enough evidence either way.

I’ve been logging my migraines in Day One, which adds weather info and step count to journal entries, so that’s how I know my migraines happened on sunny days when I’d done a lot of walking. So, if nothing else, I guess this validates my use of Day One.

Oliver Sacks was a migraineur for most of his life, and wrote a book on migraines. I’m not sure I need to read a whole book on the subject, but Sacks is a great writer, so I went ahead and ordered a copy. He also wrote an interesting piece called Patterns, for the NY Times, about the patterns that people see in their migraine auras. It’s fascinating, though I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with these things too often. And that article is part of a blog on migraines at the NYT, which hasn’t been updated in a long time, but which contains a number of other interesting articles.

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