Friday, November 6, 2009
Triggers Vs. Symptoms
Getting Fenced In
While I do not currently have migraines, I had migraines for almost 30 years. At first I did not realize what was happening to me. I blamed everything for my spates of "illness" except migraines. During a yearly physical when I was in my early 20's a doctor diagnosed me with "common" migraines, a revelation that made me realize "Idiot, all those restaurants you went to couldn't possibly have given you food poisoning every time!"
Back then there wasn't a lot of material available to read about the causes of migraines, or triggers of migraines. There weren't a lot of medications available either. If caffergot didn't fix it, I was told there wasn't much else I could do except wait the migraine out. Since I never had an aura letting me know ahead of time that I had a migraine, the caffergot was not effective since by the time I realized I had a migraine my digestive system was no longer working and the pills were too little too late.
Over the years I realized that certain things would bring on a migraine. Since I often did not know I was having a migraine until the pain got intrusive it was very hard to differentiate a trigger or causitive factor from a symptom brought on by the migrainous process.
One of the ways I learned to test a trigger verses a symptom was to retest a suspected trigger at a later date. If the pain was recreated I added that trigger to the list of "things to avoid". Another trick was how quickly the pain became unbearable after the triggering event. If it was bad within two hours, that trigger was added to the list of "things to avoid".
If I noticed something that always worsened as the pain worsened (photophobia [sensitivity to light], hyperacusis or phonophobia [sensitivity to sound],osmophobia or dysosmia [sensitivity to odors]) I considered it a symptom, not a cause. Some sorta were both - like sensitivity to odors: certain petrochemicals and certain perfumes would start a cascade of pain within 20 minutes of smelling them, which put them in the trigger category. Others, like a sensitivity to Prell shampoo only occured during a migraine which put them in the symptom category.
Triggers that definitely caused a full blown migraines within two hours of exporsure for me were: raw onions, garlic, red wine, very good basalmic vinegar, mold, moldy or aged cheese, chocolate/cocoa, diesel engine fumes, WD40 lubricant, high levels of MSG and penicillin. Symptoms that were present only when a migraine was active were sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, sensitivity to all odors, and the inability to digest food.
Migraine sufferers have so much information available to them now. There are such great assessment tools and trigger information on the web its hard to imagine the days when you had to go to a good reference library and look up everyting in 20 year old medical books. The active blogging community adds some great resources for research also, and add a personal perspective that is missing from the research libary method of information gathering.
My current headache condition, hemicrania continua, does not have a triggering event. One thing does increase the frequency of severe pain and the severity of the pain and that is exercise/activity. The more I am active the worse things get. Weird, eh? Hoping you all have great weekends, and pain free days ahead. Wishing my triggers had been as cooperative as Roy Roger's horse!