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Headache Only One of Migraine’s Many Symptoms

More than half of people with migraine experience nausea, neck pain, or sensitivity to lights, sounds or smells during a migraine, yet few doctors regularly ask about symptoms other than headache. These findings, from a National Headache Foundation survey, include only a partial list of possible migraine symptoms.

Migraine Goes Beyond Head Pain
(National Headache Foundation press release)

Chicago, IL – August 13, 2008 – Migraine sufferers often experience a series of associated symptoms in addition to migraine head pain, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Headache Foundation (NHF). Survey results reveal that more than 50% of respondents said they frequently or always experience symptoms such as nausea, neck pain, or sensitivity to lights, sounds or smells when suffering from a migraine. Additionally, 78% of respondents said their healthcare professional does not regularly inquire about associated symptoms experienced beyond actual migraine head pain.

“It is extremely important for headache sufferers to talk with their healthcare professionals about symptoms occurring in conjunction with pain,” said Dr. Roger Cady, Vice President and Board member of NHF. “Diagnosis of migraine is based in part on associated symptoms or characteristics such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to lights but communication about the entire migraine experience aids your medical provider with proper diagnosis, understanding you, and your specific treatment needs.”

Of those respondents experiencing nausea or vomiting along with their migraine head pain, many reported having to delay taking migraine medication or taking additional medication to manage their nausea. Others said they alternate an injectable form of migraine medication instead of swallowing a pill.

In order to manage migraine head pain and associated symptoms, the majority of survey respondents said they try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat balanced meals and reduce stress.

Additional NHF survey results:

  • 78% of survey respondents reported missing work due to migraine pain and/or its associated symptoms.
  • 84% said they frequently or always experience throbbing pain on one-side of their head with their migraine.
  • When asked to rate their migraine pain on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being unbearable, 56% of respondents said their migraine pain is typically between a 7 and 8.

NHF’s tips for dealing with migraine head pain and associated symptoms:

  • Get help. Discuss the associated symptoms of your migraine with your healthcare provider. S/he can help you determine your treatment options.
  • If you experience nausea or vomiting as associated symptoms of your migraine, talk with your healthcare provider about other forms of your medication such as injections, nasal sprays or tablets that do not require drinking water to take them.
  • Avoid identifiable migraine triggers and practice a healthy lifestyle.
  • Track your migraines. Write down when your migraines occur. Bring your results to your healthcare professional to review. A free downloadable headache diary is available at www.headaches.org.

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Debilitating Nausea Caused By High(ish) Magnesium Dose

white capsulesWoo hoo! I feel human again and it’s all because I stopped taking magnesium. Yep, magnesium, the wonder supplement that helps so many people with migraine and chronic daily headache. I don’t think magnesium itself is to blame, but that the dose was too high. Since I can’t even take a multivitamin without nausea, I was hyper-aware as I increased from my starting dose of 100 mg. Or so I thought.

At 333 mg per day, it was within the normal dose range for treating headaches of 200-500 mg per day. It was also within the recommended daily allowance of 350 mg. I’ve discovered that allowances and ranges are like speed limits: A guideline you’re not supposed to exceed, but that you don’t have to meet.

Practically every health care provider I’ve seen has recommended magnesium to me. I’ve taken it on and off over the last five years, although this is the first time I’ve taken it consistently for more than a few weeks. Because I’ve read so much about it and had it prescribed before, I thought I could adjust the dose myself just fine. I figured I’d be fine if I stayed at or under the RDA. I unwittingly fell for the myth that medications, vitamins and supplements sold over-the-counter are harmless.

The good and frustrating news: My overall head pain was less and I had fewer migraines during the time I was horribly nauseated. I’m guessing that means the magnesium helped some. I think once my system flushes the current round of magnesium, I’ll have my different vitamin and mineral levels tested. I’ll also make myself keep a diary of my symptoms and doses. I wouldn’t want to go through these last six weeks again. I felt horrible and was so scared of what might be wrong with me.

I haven’t had any blood tests, so I’m not positive the nausea was caused by excessive magnesium. But when debilitating nausea that began about the time I increased my dose goes away when I stop taking the pills, the evidence is strong enough for me.

What is your experience been with magnesium? Please leave a comment below or chime in on the online support group and forum.

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An Update on My Dad & How I’m Doing

My dad came home from the hospital Friday and is doing well. He’s having trouble with atrial fibrillation, which shortens his breath and tires him out. This morning my mom went with him to see his cardiologist and came home with new medications. He’ll take them for a couple weeks then have a follow-up appointment.

My sister arrived Saturday and we’re all having a lot of fun. We haven’t been together as just the four of us in years. I am blessed with a wonderful family. We love each other deeply and laugh nearly constantly.

I’ve felt pretty good the last week. Reglan is getting me through the daytime nausea. I’m taking Valium for it at night and have woken up every morning ready to go. I’ve never tried Valium for my headaches before, but it seems to be helping them too. Maybe it’s the quality of sleep or level of relaxation.

Most important is that I’ve listened to my body. Instead of pushing myself until I fall over the edge, I meditate as soon as I notice signs of an impending meltdown. I have so much to tell you about what I’ve learned from meditation and how helpful it has become — much more than I ever expected. I need to get back to my family now, but will share with you as soon as I can.

Thanks again for your love and support. Knowing you’re pulling for my family and me is so comforting.

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Where’s Kerrie?

In Phoenix! My dad is in the hospital with pericarditis and had a liter of fluid drained from his heart sac. I’m here spending time with him and helping my mom. My sister comes in Saturday and I’m looking forward to the four of us being together.

Thankfully, my head pain has been low this week. The nausea is still present, but I’m controlling it pretty well with Reglan (metoclorpramine) and, when I can sleep for 12 hours, Valium. Breathing and meditation, skills I learned in my mindfulness-based wellness class, have been invaluable. I’ve been able to keep several “attacks” at bay, even with the stress of flying.

Monday’s appointment was only long enough to address the nausea. It was disappointing, but I have an appointment when I return home. My internist also has the list of all my symptoms, which I hope she’ll get a chance to look at before my appointment.

Posting here and on the forum are obviously not happening much lately. I’m not gone for good. Writing blog posts helps me think and cope, so I hope to continue posting at least twice a week.

Thanks for all the good wishes! Your support and love is keeping me going. I’m taking fairly good care of myself and hope you are too.

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Maybe Migraine Isn’t Always to Blame: Adventures in Hyperthyroidism

Since last summer, I’ve lost 15 pounds, eaten anything I’ve wanted without gaining weight, had night sweats, and have been even more intolerant to heat than usual. Nausea went from a rare problem to occasionally more debilitating than the head pain. It has barely abated in the last week.

As symptoms I assumed were migraine (nausea, nearly blacking out, fatigue) and depression (anxiety, restlessness, fatigue) added up, I had to wonder if something else was going on. Suspicious that my endocrine or metabolic systems were the culprit, yesterday I finally had the second follow-up appointment for the lump found on my thyroid in 2006.

With his wild gray curls, enormous smile and a Jerry Garcia tie, the endocrinologist won me over immediately. He listened to me carefully, felt my thyroid and sent me to the lab. In his words, had he been a betting man he’d put money on hyperthyroidism. Two vials of my blood will be tested for thyroid dysfunction and a host of metabolic disorders, including diabetes. The results should be available today or tomorrow.

I have to admit that I have my fingers crossed. I was about to write “I never thought I could be so happy being told I probably have hyperthyroidism.” Truth is, I’m thrilled every time there’s a clue something relatively easy to manage could be exacerbating my migraines.

I’m trying to control the nausea as much as possible as I wait for the news. Antiemetics have stopped the vomiting and I can keep down saltines and ginger ale. I’ve even managed some chicken soup. (Don’t worry, I’ll call my doctor if this continues.)

Baseball season started this week and I’m digging Netflix on demand, so I’m fairly well entertained. Sadly, working on the computer is still making me feel worse, so I’m not blogging, reading news, visiting the online support group and forum, or answering e-mail. In fact, 30 minutes on my computer is taking a toll.

I wrote this Wednesday morning and felt too sick to post it. Last night I drugged myself up and was able to eat real food. I feel better now than I have all week; I’d better get off the computer before I make myself sick again!