What ARE Migraines?

june-awareness

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.

Laura, one of our assistants here at the office, used to suffer regularly from migraine attacks as did Tina’s (Front Desk) Mom. So, because we know what it’s like (first and secondhand) to have persistent, bad headaches, we thought we would highlight this issue.

Migraine is an inherited neurological disorder that is characterized by over excitability of specific areas of the brain. Although we do not clearly understand how a migraine brain is different or what happens in the brain to start a migraine, we know that individuals with migraine are more susceptible to the influence of transient factors, termed “triggers,” that raise the risk for having a migraine attack.

Migraine costs the United States more than $20 billion each year. Costs are attributed to direct medical expenses such as doctor visits and medications, and indirect expenses like missed work and lost productivity. But the burden doesn’t stop there. Those afflicted with migraine are more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, other pain conditions and fatigue. People who have a history of experiencing an aura phase (migraine with changes in vision) have been shown to be at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack.

SO, how do you know if you have migraines? What makes them different form a regular headache? While “headache” might appear as a catch-all term for all sorts of head pain, migraine is distinct from headaches because of its duration, severity and accompanying symptoms. Patients often complain of being physically exhausted and drained from the dizziness, nausea, vomiting, skin sensitivity, the lights, the smell, the sounds and the inability to concentrate or think straight. So, if you have two or more of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to consult your primary care physician.

  • Headaches that are moderately or severely painful
  • Headache pain that gets worse with physical activity
  • A headache that is throbbing and is often worse on one side
  • A headache that causes you to miss school, work or other activities
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound or smells during a headache
  • A long-lasting headache (4-48 hours if untreated)

A few fact and figures:

  • 36 million Americans suffer from migraines
  • Women are 3 times more likely than men to suffer from migraine
  • Depressions and anxiety are twice as common in people who have migraines
  • 14.8 million people in the US suffer migraine symptoms sever enough to require bed rest or cause impairment of normal daily activities.

Now, as much as we’d like to just skip the our visits to the dentist, these visits are essential for our health. Migraine sufferers, face unique challenges that require good dental hygiene and care. Frequent vomiting can erode tooth decay. Plus, many of our prescription medications can cause dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay. Some medicines even increase our risk of gum disease! Dental problems have been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, too. Because migraine sufferers already have an increased risk for heart problems, it just makes sense to keep those risk factors from stacking up too high.But dental visits can also be filled with potential triggers. If the lights, sounds, and smells don’t get you, then the procedures certainly will. Because the trigeminal nerve extends into the face and jaw, all that extra pressure, vibration, scraping, poking, and drilling certainly puts stress on our most vulnerable nerve bundle. Depending on individual sensitivity, even a simple cleaning can set off an attack.

For those of you who suffer from migraines, please tell us and we can make your appointment more comfortable for you.

  • Wear dark sunglasses or bring your eye mask along
  • Ask your dentist or hygienist to play your favorite kind of music, or if you prefer, bring your own personal music player and earbuds
  • Place a small pillow under your neck for support
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Bring a jacket or sweater if the office is cold…or better yet, ask to use our soft blanket
  • Apply over the counter oral pain relief gel to your lips before you get started
  • Use a portable TENS unit on your neck and/or shoulders to help you stay relaxed
  • Apply Vicks under your nose or use one of our soft organic lip balms  to mask unpleasant smells
  • Practice deep breathing, relaxation and use your earbuds to listen to meditation recordings to help you remain calm
  • Ask for the first appointment of the day. We are always concerned with your comfort, but we are human too and early morning appointments are always less stressed and rushed than those at the end of the day

Check out these links for further information:

American Migraine Foundation -www.americanmigrainefoundation.org

Coalition for Headache and Migraine Patients – http://www.headachemigraine.org

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