Migraine: More Than Just a Bad Headache

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It is very likely that you have heard the term migraine before, and it is even more likely that you have heard it used in an incorrect circumstance. Most people define migraine as just “bad headaches”, when in actuality, migraine is a neurological disease that is very misunderstood. Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting at least 38 million people in the United States. Some evidence shows that possibly over 50 million people in the United States are affected [2].

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People who get migraines normally experience two to three migraine days a month, but people with chronic migraine suffer up to 15 days a month [2]. The people that most commonly suffer from migraine are women, people aged 15-55, Native Americans, Caucasians, and people with low income [2]. The most common symptoms of migraine as reported by migraine sufferers are nausea, vomiting, vision changes/blurred vision, sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, throbbing pain, and more [2]. About 25% of migraine sufferers experience a visual disturbance called an aura before the pain of the migraine begins. An aura usually lasts less than one hour [1]. 

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Jenna, a senior in college that was interviewed about her experience with migraines, said that the worst part of her migraines isn’t even the migraine itself. “Honestly, the aura I get before the migraine is even worse than the actual migraine. My vision becomes blurry, almost like a kaleidoscope, and I can not see the stuff that I am looking directly at. I still have my peripheral vision, so I use that to my advantage, but it is so dangerous for me to drive or anything like that when I have an aura”, Jenna explained. “The only good part about getting an aura is that it acts as a warning sign for the migraine. Because of my aura, I am able to quickly take medication and stop the pain before it happens.” According to Jenna, there is a silver lining of experiencing aura with migraine.

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Migraines do not only affect the lives of adults, but also children. Migraines in children go mostly undiagnosed, making it difficult for those children to get treatment [1]. Around 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine, and up to 28% of adolescents between the ages of 15-19 are affected [1]. A child that suffers from migraine is twice as likely to be absent from school than a child without migraine [2]. A child who has one parent with migraine has a 50% chance of having migraines, and if both parents have migraine, the chances are 75% [1].

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If a child is suffering from migraine, as a parent there are many things you can do to help manage their migraines. Taking medication is very important to help ease the effects of migraine. Children can sometimes be forgetful when it comes to taking medication, and some migraine medications are supposed to be taken every day in order to stop migraines from happening completely. In that case, it is crucial that the child takes the medicine so they do not get a migraine. As a parent, you should help remind the child to take their medication [3]. Another thing parents should do in order to help their child manage migraine is to notify their school nurse and teachers of their problem [3]. This will be so helpful when your child gets a migraine during school and needs to lay down or just be in a dark, quiet place. Stress also plays a large role in migraine triggering, so being taught how to manage stress is very important to a child that has migraines [3]. Parents also need to teach their kids to live a healthy lifestyle in order to curb their migraines. Sleeping enough and having a consistent sleep schedule is very important in the struggle to not trigger a migraine. Eating enough food is also important, as low blood sugar plays a role in triggering a migraine as well [3].

Todd, a junior in college, said that having migraines since childhood has been very hard on him. “I have gotten migraines since I was in middle school,” Todd said, “and it was very hard at first. I knew that what I was going through was much worse than just a normal headache. The school nurse didn’t believe that there was actually something wrong with me until after the doctor diagnosed me and gave her a call. That significantly helped how school went for me when I had a migraine. She would allow me to lay down and nap in a very dark room for as long as I needed to”, Todd explained. “Fellow migraine sufferers know how hard it is to live with [migraine], as it can be debilitating. I hope that someday people will recognize how hard it is living this way, and that migraines are not just bad headaches.”


[1] https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts

[2] https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/

[3] https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/kids-migraine-healthy-habits/


*I decided to do my final on migraine because I suffer from migraines with an aura and am very passionate about the topic*

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