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What’s With My Head: New Headache Specialist, Menstrual Migraine, Allergies & Reading

New Headache Specialist
I saw the headache specialist several readers have recommended and really liked him. After more than two hours with me (we had to schedule a second appointment to fit it all in!) he speculated that some of my headaches are actually caused by new daily persistent headache. In the past, my chronic daily headache was always attributed to migraine transforming to everyday.

Although the doctor wants to see me monthly, the next available appointment is in March. Before then I’m supposed to get a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and more blood work. My last lumbar puncture resulted in a three-week headache and wasn’t responsive to a blood patch. I’m not looking forward to it.

Menstrual Migraine
I got a birth control pill prescription to see if it will manage the two-day migraines I get when my period starts. In typical fashion, I haven’t filled the prescription. The migraine that kept me in bed my first two days of vacation in Mexico should motivate me to to take it to the pharmacy.

Allergies
After always feeling worse after vacation, I finally admitted my headaches and migraines are worse in Seattle than elsewhere. I was in Kansas for a funeral the last weekend of October. I was shocked to wake up two mornings in a row with a barely perceptible headache. Nor was I as congested as I always am at home. I took Zyrtec for a few days and both my congestion and migraines were less. Not a reliable experiment. It unfortunately made me nauseated, so I couldn’t keep taking it. I’m trying Claritin now.

When I was tested for allergies when I was 14, I responded most strongly to mold. That wasn’t an issue in Phoenix — quite the opposite in Seattle. Studies indicate than while allergies don’t cause headache, they can trigger migraines. Thursday I’m seeing an allergist and will probably get tested for allergies. Maybe she can sort something out.

Migraines Triggered By Reading & Working on the Computer
These are still in full-force, hence my infrequent posts. A loved one who is an ophthalmologist gave me a thorough vision and eyestrain exam when I was in Phoenix for Thanksgiving. The diagnosis was convergence insufficiency. That means:

Convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes don’t turn inward properly when you focus on a nearby object. When you read or look at a nearby object, your eyes should turn inward while you focus, so you can see a single image. But if you have convergence insufficiency, you need to use extra effort to move your eyes inward for focusing. This extra effort results in various symptoms, including eyestrain.

I’m now using an eye patch when I read or am on the computer. So far, I’ve been able to squeak out about an hour on computer with it. I still get a headache if I push it, but it is mild and doesn’t explode into a migraine. If the eye patch continues to be OK, I’ll get prescription reading glasses with a prism, which I can wear over my contacts.

22 Responses to What’s With My Head: New Headache Specialist, Menstrual Migraine, Allergies & Reading

  1. Dorci says:

    Re: the allergies and mold – have you tried having your air ducts cleaned out? Just a thought. Good luck with the new doctor. A good doctor makes all the difference, even if it’s just in the compassion factor.

  2. Donna says:

    Good luck to you in finding some relief.

  3. Mary Kay says:

    Hi Keri,
    I am glad you found a good headache specialist..that can make all the difference.

    Like Seattle, Buffalo, NY has frequent weather fronts being on the east side of a body of water. These barometric pressure changes cause migraine. We had one this past weekend and the temp rose over a few days to 50 degrees (in Buffalo in December!) then dropped in 4 hours to 30…I had a headache for three days on that one!

  4. becky says:

    congrats on finding such an excellent doctor! That’s half the battle. Still searching for my Prince(ss) Charming doc for h/a.

    I think I also have NPDH. I’m excited to hear what they suggest for you! From what I’ve read, Neurontin and Topamax are the only preventatives they try for this type of h/a, and both of those failed utterly for me.

    It’s also interesting what you say about allergies. I’ve also recently thought that allergies might be playing a part. I have unbelievable h/a from March -Oct which I’m 99% sure are allergies. I’m using Singular and Zyrtec plus Nasacort, and that made a huge difference for m. On top of that, my naturopath has given me some stuff for allergies, and I see a chiropractor once a week in the summer. This might sound weird, but the chiro is the only one who can fix my allergy h/a. He told me there’s a feedback loop between your sinuses and one of your upper verts (c1? c2?), so that when your sinuses are inflamed it starts inflaming your verts (or some such — I don’t remember the exact details! 🙂 ). Anyway, he’s right. After he adjusts me, the h/a usually starts to dissipate. Allergy h/a are the only ones he can fix like that.

  5. I wish I could find a good headache specialist. It brings me hope to hear that some are out there!

  6. Alicia says:

    I also had an appointment with Dr. Singer last week, and he also thinks I have NDPH.

    The steroid pack he had me try resulted in THREE DAYS HEADACHE FREE! Unfortunately, Headache came roaring back yesterday. The disappointment is almost worse than the pain.

    I’m currently waiting to fill my nortriptylene script — we’ve been more or less housebound today because of the snow (we’re in Portland).

    I really liked Dr. Singer, too! Darrin (my husband) says he seems to have a little of the mad scientist about him, but I think that’s just what I need at this point. I’ve never had a doctor’s visit where the doctor actually wrote out a page of notes on my Headache and gave me a copy.

    I hope this next med helps. It’s a long time ’til March (actually, they told me April).

    All in all, well worth the trip to Seattle. I wish I’d found Dr. Singer much sooner.

    Alicia

    ********
    He did admit that some specialists think he over-diagnoses NDPH. He said that once he rules out migraine (or migraine as the total cause), he thinks it’s useful to consider, especially because so few doctors do. I hope he’s right!

    Kerrie

  7. mindy says:

    Hey Kerri,
    I’ve always struggled with allergies, especially mold. My sinuses play some sort of role in it all. My doctor wasn’t convinced because he said that part of a migraine is the irritation of the nerve that runs close to the sinuses near the nose, hence why your sinuses get irritated. I’ve always found benadryl and other sinus meds to help when I get a migraine. It is funny because I’m in the opposite climate in Denver, very dry, and my allergies and migraines have gotten worse since we moved here. I guess it is because the allergens can move through dry air faster. For you, the mold must grow quicker. I experience the barometric changes causing them, too. It is a never ending battle of figuring out, but we have to keep on trying. Nose spray may help, too.

  8. Karen says:

    Kerrie,

    Glad to hear you liked Dr. Singer. For the last year or so we have been working very well together. He recently gave me a steroid to take for extended headache that is working pretty well when the headache keeps coming back every other day. So far it is helping me to only take the triptans twice a week. He also put me on a new preventative, Benicar, that is also more successful than the others were for me.

    I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

    Karen

  9. I was also diagnosed with NDPH. Although I still experience daily headache, I have found that Verapamil greatly decreased the intensity/severity of the NDPH.

    Glad to hear you like your new specialist. Good luck.

  10. Cheryl Sundman says:

    Kerrie, you can ask that a blood patch can be done right after the LP as a preventative against leaking. Cheryl

    *******
    Thanks for the tip, Cheryl! I’ll definitely ask for that.

    Kerrie

  11. kelly says:

    Kerrie:

    What brand birth control pills were you prescribed? I am also considering taking them to help with the hormonal migraines. I just wish I could find more information about which pills work best for women with migraines.

    **********
    I can’t remember and can’t find the prescription right now (still haven’t gotten it filled!). There was nothing methodical to her choice — she just went for a low-estrogen generic. She did warn against ones that are marketed for continual use, like Seasonale. She said the only difference is marketing and it’s not generic.

    Kerrie

  12. Chaconia says:

    I also find computer screens aggravate migraine. I think in my case it is the glare … flurescent light has a similar effect. I had special rose tinted glasses made when I worked at computers. Had to stop work eventually due to migraine. Try turning down the glare and change the background white to something darker, that might help. Also increasing the font size. And have frequent breaks!

  13. Lauren says:

    Kerrie, my headaches always seem to go away when I leave the Seattle area for a time, too. My last two vacations to Mexico, two weeks each, I had no headaches the entire time. Very interesting.

    That said, I haven’t had a bad headache now for a year. One year ago, I discovered I was pregnant, and they vanished. My son is 3 months old and still no headaches. I am breastfeeding, so I don’t know if I am still producing hormones that are a factor, or if pregnancy “cured” me.

    Good luck with the spinal tap. If a good anesthesiologist performs it (i.e. not an ER doc) you have a much better chance of escaping without the spinal tap headache.

  14. Sue says:

    I’m glad that you have found a decent headache doc. They seem to be few and far between!

    Best wishes for the lumbar puncture and for all of 2009.

  15. Mamta Singh says:

    Hi,
    It could be a number of factors actually. From magnesium deficiency, to MAO deficiency, food triggers to environmental factors (as you suspect molds, stress and sleep deprivation, and the BIGGIE serotonin levels, prostaglandins, calcium, lack of exercise and 22 others….the list is almost unending. I figured mine out though. Migraines at the time of periods – serotonin and magnesium issues….
    Please visit http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com for more information and how to proactively tackle your episodes
    Best regards

  16. mikaylia says:

    Hi everyone! For the last 13 years I would get migraines all the time. It started off with 1 migraine a week and then the last few years, it was on average 4 times per week. My friend, recommended I see her naturopath for iron deficiency issues I was having, so I did. While I visited with this doctor, I told him how I would get migraines all the time and literally in less than 2 months, my migraines went from 4/week to mayb 2-3 times per month. And probably that 2 out of 3 times is related to my period. Anyways, this doctor is absolutely amazing, and he’s located in Kent, WA. If anyone is interested in seeing him or have more questions about him, feel free to contact me.

  17. Heather says:

    Be very careful with the birth control pills, even the low dose varieties will trigger killer migraines from the drop and/or increase in hormones. I don’t know why they warned you about seasonale, it’s actually a continual dose of estrogen which basically gives you 3 months of being menstrual migraine free and ask about Lybrel (sp?) it’s one you take continually as well. 3 good months with one bad week is better than, well, you know! In my journey through most all of the birth control types, I found that not taking any at all gave me less menstrual migraines than taking them. HTH, good luck!

  18. Are you at all concerned about increased risk of stroke with the combination of being a migraineur and taking the pill? I’ve read some material on line which seemed to indicated the stroke risk was too great for women who also have migraine? Of course, sometimes the pain decreases your quality of life so much it’s worth the risk. Or maybe there are new studies? If so, I’d love ot read them as my worse migraines are linked to my cycle. Just thought I’d mention it….

  19. lol! nevermind! just saw the bit on the post and stroke risk two posts back! 🙂

  20. Дискутировать по этому поводуможно бесконечно, поэтому просто хочу поблагодарить автора. Спасибо вам!

  21. lilith Fowler says:

    I hope you had better luck than I did with the birth control pills… I took one of ones where you only menstruate every third month but my migraines got worse (and I spotted basically all the time)… and getting off of them triggered about six weeks of headaches every couple days. So ditto to preceding advice to be careful. Anyone know how to bring on early menopause?

  22. Misery says:

    I bumped my head on 1/9/11. Ever since that day I have been experiencing migraines and slight headaches. Everyday it never fails. I went to see my physician and she prescribed me Butal-APAP-CAFFEINE pills that doesnt help. Sometimes the pain is on going. I usually take excerdrin with caffeine (over the counter drug). I don’t know what else to do

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