After slamming it in a door, hard, my finger is so swollen and numb that I can’t type much. I reimbursed myself for pain and suffering by buying the cute scarf I went in for. I’ll see next week if it was a fair trade.
Sometimes I think coping with chronic daily headache is easier than with migraine. I have both but lately have focused on migraine in life and on this blog. Time to remedy that.
Predictability is in chronic daily headache’s favor. I wake up each morning with some degree of headache. Sometimes it will be a full-blown migraine, but often it is mild to moderate. Knowing what to expect somehow makes it easier to anticipate and enjoy the low-pain days.
The shadow of a potential strike is always with people with less frequent migraine episodes or other headache disorders. Hart, whose migraines visit an average of once a month, thinks five or six times each day that one is coming on.
I never know if my chronic daily headache is just getting a little worse or if the building pain is an imminent migraine. Not having visual auras and having hard-to-pin-down warning symptoms is part of the problem. Still, I don’t check for a migraine throughout the day. Or maybe I do and just don’t realize it.
Chronic daily headache is not as well-known as migraine and is often dismissed by doctors as attention-seeking or exaggerated claims. Friends and family can wonder the same thing. Patients themselves are perhaps the most concerned. Maybe they’ve done something wrong or haven’t been a good enough patient. The guilt and self-doubt can be overwhelming.
My original thesis for this post is that living with chronic daily headache is easier than with migraine. After letting my thoughts flow through my fingers, I’ve proven myself wrong. Rating them may be impossible. They are both life-altering and miserable. The Pollyanna in me says they both have positive aspects too. You know, all the cliches: I’m a better person for it, I live life more fully, I’m more in touch with my body.
I end this post thinking that chronic daily headache may be harder for me. Maybe I resent it more than I do migraine. Anyone with chronic daily headache and spikes of severe pain, migraine or not, do you have a “preference”?
Paula Kamen writes about chronic daily headache on the New York Times migraine blog. Leaving the Rabbit Hole, her latest post, is an eye-opener. Be sure to check out her radio interview too.
Check out February’s blog carnivals on headache and pain. Somebody Heal Me is hosting the Headache Blog Carnival, which is about migraine and romance. The Pain Blog Carnival is up at How to Cope With Pain.
Renowned writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks describes non-visual auras, correlations between migraine and memory loss, migraine’s connection to strange dreams and more in Answers to Reader Questions on the New York Times migraine blog. Inquiries and responses aren’t about medical advice, but less frequently discussed components of migraine.
- Non-visual auras (like hallucinating or distorting sounds or smells, tingling in limbs, etc.)
- Hormone levels
- Emotional changes
- Creativity and intelligence
- Bizarre dreams
- Memory loss
As always, his post contains thoughtful answers and colorful stories.
Migraine preventive Topamax (topiramate) has long been associated with trouble thinking, hence the widely used nickname of Dopamax. A recent study indicates that some people have trouble with language while taking Topamax. Some “language disturbances,” as the authors call it, include:
- Finding words
- Substituting a word with another unrelated word
- Taking forever to get a thought out
- Meshing words
- Naming objects
According the Reuters article, “Language disturbances generally occurred within the first month of treatment, were of mild severity, and did not require further adjustment of dosages or discontinuation of topiramate.” I’m not sure what that means. Did the language disturbances subside after a month? Does “mild severity” mean that participants chose to stay on the drug even with the side effects?
The abstract of the original article in the journal Headache, Language Disturbances as a Side Effect of Prophylactic Treatment of Migraine, doesn’t answer these questions, but does raise others:
Conclusion.—It can be hypothesized that a disorder such as migraine, which involves numerous cortical and subcortical circuits implicated in the transmission and behavioral and emotional processing of pain, represents a facilitated substrate for the occurrence of language disturbances due to topiramate. This could be the expression of a more generalized impairment of cognitive processing. These aspects should be investigated in prospective studies involving larger migraine patient samples.
My interpretation: The make up of a migraineur’s brain is such that Topamax’s language side effects can flourish. Language problems could be only one part of overall impaired thinking. I believe this means that Topamax impairs thinking, but most migrainuers will attest that our minds are fuzzy even without Topamax. That’s the research I want to see.
Do these findings fit with your experience of Topamax? Take The Daily Headache’s Topamax & migraine survey.