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Migraine Attacks Increase With Menopause, Study Finds

I just arrived in Los Angeles for the American Headache Society’s annual scientific meeting. It’s been a rough month, so I’m not sure how much of the conference I’ll get to attend, but I’m eager for whatever I’ll get to learn. Tons of research will be presented at the meeting, but one study in particular is more frightening than exciting:

A study of 3,606 women between the ages of 35 and 65 found that women who were in the transition to menopause or were already in menopause had more frequent migraine attacks than women who hadn’t begun menopause. In the study, about a third of the women hadn’t yet hit menopause (premenopausal), a third were in the transition to menopause (peri-menopausal) and a third had already entered menopause.

Only 8% of premenopausal women had 10 or more migraine attacks per month. Of women who were in the transition to menopause or already in menopause, 12% had 10 or more attacks a month. Researchers concluded that the peri-menopausal and menopausal women were 50% to 60% more likely to have frequent migraine attacks than pre-menopausal women.

Hormonal changes, particularly the drop in estrogen in peri-menopause and menopause, are thought to be responsible for this disparity.

I’d bet at least 99% of women have had a health care provider tell them to expect a decrease in their migraine frequency menopause. Many of us have even been told the migraine attacks will stop completely. This research raises serious doubts about the migraine nirvana we may have thought awaited us.

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Enter to Win TheraSpecs & Raise Migraine Awareness

theraspecs_migraineTo raise awareness of the magnitude of migraine and celebrate Migraine & Headache Awareness Month, TheraSpecs is giving away two free pairs! Follow this link and leave a comment on TheraSpecs’ Facebook page about how light impacts your health. That’s all that’s required. Raise awareness by sharing the image — and it’s sobering statistics.

Update 7/2/14: Thanks to everyone who shared their story and the image. We reached tens of thousands of people with these startling statistics on migraine. And a TheraSpecs customer offered to purchase a third pair for us to give away, so we’re pleased to announce THREE winners. Congratulations to Vivian Leelee, Sherry-Sharon Bowen, and Christy Grandon!

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Migraine Continuum: Episodic & Chronic Labels Are Inadequate

A perpetual migraine for 18 days followed by eight days with a new migraine each day — that’s what I’ve just come out of. You think I’d be used to it, having done the severe constant migraine thing for a decade with only slight, infrequent reprieves. I suppose I was, but having had a break and then returning to it, I can see clearly how incredibly draining it is to have a migraine all the time.

Even when I felt my best this spring, I still have a migraine attack more days than not. For me, that’s easy to cope with compared to having a continuous migraine. It’s hard to articulate just how physically and emotionally taxing it is to never get a break.

Migraine is talked about as episodic or chronic, but those terms don’t account for the tremendous variation in quality of life. Someone can have a few migraine attacks a year or seven a month and still be considered episodic. Someone with chronic migraine can have eight migraine days and 15 headache days a month or have a non-stop migraine. How can two categories possibly capture that range?

Some researchers do break down episodic migraine into low-, medium- and high-frequency, though there’s distinction between degrees of chronic migraine. Hmm, degrees of migraine. I like that framing, though I wonder if it is possible to talk about degrees of migraine without people ranking their pain in relation to that of others.

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A Cold? Nope, Migraine.

You know that cold that gave me brain fog and fatigue as bad as with my worst migraine attacks? It was migraine. While the mild cold lasted only a few days, I simultaneously developed a reaction to one of my “safe” foods (likely cauliflower). It was triggering migraines that were lower on the pain scale than usual since I’d restarted Ritalin as a preventive. Since I ate cauliflower daily, sometimes multiple times a day, I was in a pretty much perpetual migraine.

I’m getting it sorted out, but am also pushing to introduce new foods to my diet so this doesn’t happen again (it has also happened with coconut and butternut squash). That means more migraines as I find out what’s OK and what’s not and what rotation schedule my foods need to be on. It’s annoying and frustrating, but I’ve got a good plan in place and trust that if I’ve figured this out before, I can do it again.

I’ll probably be quieter than usual for a bit, since my mind isn’t cooperating with this writing thing right now. I am reading a ton, including lots of health-related non-fiction that I’m eager to tell you about. Take care of yourselves. I’ll be back soon.

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Acceptance of Migraine, Chronic Illness

In Acceptance, Not Resignation on Migraine.com, I think I’ve finally captured how empowering it has been for me to accept that I have chronic migraine rather than constantly fighting against it. As with most of what I write for Migraine.com, this piece is migraine-focused, but it could apply for any headache disorder or, really, any chronic illness. An excerpt:

I have given up on the idea that my life can only be good if I’m migraine-free. And by accepting that I will always have migraine, I have lessened it’s control over me.

By accepting that migraine is here to stay, I have stopped waiting to get my life back. Instead of wishing and waiting to feel better before I can laugh and play again, I’m more able to enjoy all that I do have and can do, even (or maybe especially) the small pleasures.

This may be my favorite post ever, not for my writing, but for everything the post represents. It seems paradoxical, but accepting migraine as a chronic illness that will always be with me has improved my life immeasurably. I’ve written about it before, though this is the first time that I feel like I really got to the heart of it.

What do you think of acceptance? Has it helped you? Or do you think it’s an absurd idea?