By Jantina Kamminga
“Migraine? Oh, that is just a headache. It is not that bad.” That is often what I hear people say. I personally could strangle those people. It is not just a headache…I would call it a mix of terrible and annoying pain. Some people may describe it as somebody sawing through their skull. I myself would describe it as somebody knocking on my head with a sledgehammer. A few weeks ago I was talking to someone about my migraines. I realised I did not have any migraine attacks since I came to South Africa in February from my home town in Holland. I should have knocked on wood, because two days later I had to stay in bed for the entire day due to a migraine attack.
Do not get me wrong. I also do have minor headaches, but those are vastly different to migraines.
What is migraine?
Every person experiences the many types of migraines in a different way. There is a common migraine, which is the most common kind. Aura-migraine is a type of migraine which causes people to see wavy lines or ‘stars’. Some women experience migraines when they are menstruating. There is also a form of migraine that causes people to experience trouble speaking and hearing. Sometimes they are even unable to move one of their limbs.
Clear symptoms of a migraine attack are: diarrhea, craving food or not wanting to eat at all, depressed or cranky, fatigue or extreme energy. Some even experience pins-and-needles in their hands, arms and/or face.
Different types of migraines have varying symptoms. I personally experience a heavy headache on the left side of my head, which causes pressures on my left eye and the pressure is only relieved when I lie down. Often I experience bouts of nausea and sometimes I am so confused that I am not sure if I am nauseous or simply hungry. Any form of light worsens my migraine and I absolutely cannot look at my computer screen. During my migraine attacks I prefer to stay indoors, with my curtains shut tightly…especially when the sun is shining. I can go outside if it is a dark, rainy day, but then again I do not like rain. A friend of mine who is also forced to endure this kind of pain, has worse attacks than I do. She will begin her day with a migraine and sometimes it will take up to two or three days before the attack is over. The duration of a migraine attack can range between four to 24 hours, but many experience attacks for as long as a couple of days. Majority of my attacks will begin in the morning and last for the entire day. I will wake up the next day with a minor headache, but the full-blown migraine will be gone.
What can trigger migraine?
The trigger is different for every person, but what triggers my migraines is a combination of circumstances. Lack of sleep, bright lights, loud noises, weather changes and stress are common triggers. To be honest, I should pay more attention to my triggers and perhaps keep a headache diary. Maybe then I would be able to prevent the sprouting of a migraine in the future.
Doctors have suggested possibly ways to treat migraine, but I personally am not treated by a doctor. I simply swallow some paracetamol and go to bed. To be honest the paracetamol will often not help… It is very important to see a doctor if a person is experiencing repetitive migraines, as medication can be taken to prevent these attacks. I have not experienced that many to be worried. Grahamstown weather has a mind of its own and lack of sleep never helps. Many find that stress is the key trigger.
Throughout my research concerning this topic, I have discovered that employers do not take migraines seriously because some employees abuse the situation. I can only hope that there are enough employers out there who will understand the situation.
My biggest hope however is that a migraine will never be seen as a minor headache ever again…