Before a migraine attack I will experience what I can only describe as flashes before my eyes. Not quite as bright as when a camera flashes in your eyes, similar, just dimmer. I also get little squiggles floating around in my eyes, if you try to look at them they move around so they are never in focus. Have you ever looked at the sun or a light bulb for a few seconds and then looked around and saw things that were not there? It's kind of like that.
When the pain strikes it's usually focused in one place. Not like a headache when your whole head aches. With a migraine I can actually point to where it hurts, and it's almost always the same place. I can also suffer with pain behind my eyes and at the back of my neck.
(N.B. If you are not a migraine sufferer and you get a really bad headache accompanied by pain in your neck please see a doctor as soon as possible as it could be serious.)
The pain will get worse if I turn my head, if I speak, if I move..in fact absolutely anything I do apart from staying very still will make the pain worse. If untreated it is unbearable and will make me feel sick. Sometimes I am sick, and the wrong kind of pain relief can make me feel sick.
I feel best when I am lying down in a dark room, but sometimes that is just as unbearable. The migraine is unbearable.
I cannot watch TV, I cannot read, I cannot use the computer or my mobile phone.
Painkillers will help to make the migraine more bearable. With painkillers I can get out of bed and put on clothes. I can't really do much else and the relief doesn't last long.
I've tried several things to help me throughout the years and these are what I find most useful.
- A cold pad on the forehead. I have one that I keep in the fridge. The gel pads you can buy from the chemist for migraines work too. They provide relief for a while, but as soon as you remove them or they get warm the pain is still there. They do not take away the pain. I once felt a migraine coming on while about to board a train for a long trip home. I popped into the chemist and bought some cool pads and didn't care what I looked like with one plastered on my head. The train was crowded and the whole trip was a nightmare, but it would have been much worse without the pad.
- Preventative medicine. I use a drug prescribed by my GP which is a beta-blocker. I'm on a very high dose and suffer some side affects, but since taking it regularly I have noticed a change in frequency and length of the migraines.
- Migraine medicine. You can buy certain drugs over the counter at the pharmacy. They are expensive but can work for some. I've tried them all and none worked for me. The one that had a little effect was triptan based. My GP prescribes me a different triptan drug, it dissolves on my tongue so it works quickly. When I take it I fall asleep. I have no choice. When I wake up, mostly the migraine is gone. If it hasn't then it's just painkillers and cool pads because I can't take more than one triptan per migraine. They don't work like pain killers, they narrow the blood vessels in the brain.
- keep rehydrated and drink lots of water based drinks and less caffeine based drinks. If I get really thirsty I know I am at risk of getting a migraine. I always carry a bottle of water in the car or my handbag. I also have water by my bedside.
If I don't take a triptan, or if it doesn't work my migraines can last up to three days. The first day is the worst, the next two are just like a really bad headache providing I take regular pain relief. Then I am left with a migraine hangover, which does actually feel like a alcohol induced hangover but without having touched a drop.
Some people have triggers which set off their migraines. I get them if I get really dehydrated but I've tried eliminating all sorts of foods from my diet to see if it helps with no success. Common culprits are cheese and chocolate.
As my migraines are hormone related I have experienced more of them recently, including a cluster of attacks when I actually thought I was dying it was so awful. Just as soon as one was clearing up another would start. Since then I've been particular vigilant in my preventative tasks. My age means my hormones are beginning to change so I think this may become more common for me over the next few years. I am hoping that it will also mean that there is an ending in sight.
Do you suffer from migraines? If you do you have my sincere sympathy, but do share your tips for getting some relief or preventing them.