Six Migraine Myths
By Robin Westen
This much we know: More than 29.5 million Americans suffer with migraines, and up to 80 percent who do, also have a family history of the condition. If you experience this often excruciating ailment, knowing what’s true -- and what’s not -- can help you deal with your condition. Read on:
Myth: Migraines Are Just Really Bad Headaches
The headache is only one of many possible symptoms of a migraine attack. Migraines can occur with no headache at all. When this happens they’re described as “silent” or “acephalgic” migraines. In fact, for a diagnosis of migraine, there must be symptoms other than headache, including nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, visual disturbances or aura, and worsening of pain during physical exertion.
Myth: Migraines Usually Linger Just for a Day The “typical” migraine lasts from four to 72 hours, but they can last much longer – even months. If they last longer than 72 hours, a doctor should be contacted. Some people have migraines daily. If you have migraines for 15 days or more you suffer with a condition called Chronic Migraine (CM).
Myth: Migraines are Painful, but they Won't Kill You Complications from migraines and risk factors associated with migraine can be life threatening. Studies confirm a link between migraine and stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. In fact, approximately 1,400 women with migraine and auras die annually from cardiovascular diseases. Studies have also confirmed a link between migraine and suicide.
Myth: Doctors Know how to Diagnose and Treat Migraines In a 2011 report, the World Health Organization stated, “Lack of knowledge among health-care providers is the principal clinical barrier to effective migraine management.” Although there’s no cure for migraine disease at this time, with the help of a doctor who understands the disease you can work on trigger identification and migraine management medications.
Myth: If You Don't Have an Aura, It's Really not a Migraine Only 25 to 30% of people with migraines have experienced an aura, and even fewer of them have an aura with every migraine attack.
Myth: People Who Get Migraines Are Either Too Sensitive or Stressed-Out An old theory pointed to a set of personality features that were dominant in migraine suffers including inflexibility, conscientiousness and perfectionism, but the so-called migraine personality has been debunked.
About the Author
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."