Before I was diagnosed with migraine I thought it was just a bad headache, as so many do. It didn't ever occur to me that the dizziness I was experiencing was migraine, vestibular migraine to be precise. I soon learnt that there is a whole vocabulary around migraine, with so many different types, symptoms, treatments and so much more.
So this is my A-Z of migraine. It is, of course, not medical advice as I am not a doctor and I am sure that I have left out certain terms (let me know in the comments!). But I hope that it covers many of them. This A-Z is a jumping off point to help you learn more about migraine. There are some websites linked below with lots more information.
This post is for informational purposes only. I am not a doctor and you should always seek advice from a medical professional for your healthcare.
This post contains affiliate links. This is at no extra cost to you, and is much appreciated support towards the running of the blog.
A is for aura, which around a third of people with migraine experience (The Migraine Trust). It usually occurs before the headache (if that is a symptom for you) and can include visual disturbances such as zig-zag lines, numbness or changes to speech or hearing. Have a read of this post by The Migraine Trust for more information.
A is for abdominal migraine, a form of migraine that most often affects children. It involves episodic central abdominal pain occurring with other features of migraine (Angus-Leppen et al).
A is also for Avulux, a brilliant range of migraine glasses that are helpful for those with light sensitivity. Avulux glasses block harmful blue light, and other spectrums of light, while allowing soothing green light in. Avulux have kindly offered my readers $25 USD off with the code Throughthefibrofog (affiliate code).
B is for brain fog. Migraine has many symptoms, and I think many of us will agree that brain fog comes along with higher symptoms during an attack or afterwards in the recovery or postdrome stage.
B is also for Botox, a preventative treatment that can be very helpful for those with chronic migraine. It involves around 30 injections in the forehead, head, neck and shoulders, and is administered every 12 weeks.
B is also for Blisslets, which are nausea relief bands are a brilliant non-drug treatment option for those with this symptom. Very cute, easy to wear and they don't look medical at all!
Blisslets has kindly given my readers 15% off with the code fibrofog
C is for chronic migraine. Migraine is typically defined as either episodic or chronic migraine. If you have more than 15 headache days in a month, of which 8 are migrainous, then you will likely be diagnosed as having chronic migraine.
C is for Celafy, which is 'an External Trigeminal Nerve Stimulator (e-TNS). An adhesive electrode is placed on the forehead and the Cefaly is connected magnetically to this electrode. Through this electrode it produces precise micro-pulses on the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve to treat migraine' (Cefaly).
D is for dizziness, a fairly common symptom of migraine. If like me you live with vestibular migraine, then dizziness may be one of your most common symptoms. In fact, you may not have pain at all with this type of migraine.
D is also for diary - a headache / symptom diary that many doctors like patients to complete, and that can be very helpful for both you and them to identify triggers and track progress over time, and in relation to treatments.
D is also for diagnosis. At a recent webinar on migraine, it was described that only 3 out of 10 people receive a diagnosis on their first medical appointment, with many finding it taking several years.
E is for episodic migraine. This is when a person has less than 15 migraine attacks in a month.
E is also for exercise. As the Migraine Trust describes, headache researchers are 'now finding evidence that suggests that moderate exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks in some people. They have found that regular exercise can be effective in preventing migraine'. However, for some people exercise can trigger a migraine. It may be that changing some aspects of your lifestyle prior to exercise may help prevent this, and their post has a number of suggestions for how to do this.
F is for Feverfew, a herbal remedy that some believe has helped reduce their migraine attacks. However, evidence is conflicting and it is not recommended for some people, including pregnant women (The Migraine Trust).
G is for gepants, a relatively new medicine used for migraine. To quote the American Migraine Foundation: 'Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a protein that carries pain signals along nerves that are involved in generating the headache pain associated with migraine. Gepants work to block CGRP from attaching to its receptor and initiating those pain signals'. Gepants are oral tablets rather than injectibles and are taken on an as-needed basis.
H is for headache, a common symptom of migraine. Most people have had a headache at some point in their lives, but the head pain of a migraine attack is usually much more intense. However, some people do not experience head pain at all with migraine, such as some people with vestibular migraine.
I is for injectibles. There are a number of preventative treatments for migraine that are injectibles, including Botox, nerve blocks, and the newer CGRP monoclonal antibody treatments such as Aimovig and Ajovy.
I is also for ice. With the hot head feeling that often comes along with a migraine attack, many of us look to ice to help calm pain. There are lots of products with engineered ice on the market (which don't get wet like actual ice) such as the Koldtec halo and the Headache hat.
J is for jeopardising. Migraine impacts upon our lives in so many ways. It jeopardises our work lives, social lives and so much more. It can bring loneliness and isolation as people have to stay home, perhaps alone, due to the severity of their attacks.
K is for ketamine. A small-scale study has shown that ketamine may provide relief for some migraine patients for whom other treatments had not been effective. Three out of the four migraine patients reported imporvements in pain intensity at the end of the ketamine infusions they received.
K is also for kale. No don't worry, I'm not going to tell you it cures migraine. However, anytime I do scroll Instagram I find a ton of posts telling me about all the magical ways I can cure my neurological condition through eating kale, an apple on an empty stomach, rubbing cinnamon on my forehead or drinking what looks like pond water in an unclean bottle. My point is to take it all with a pinch of salt, and don't be sucked into these weird and wonderful 'cures'. They are likely just after your money. Your doctor is the best source of advice for migraine treatments.
L is for light sensitivity (also known as photophobia). This is a common issue for those with migraine. The sun seems far too bright, lamps and artificial lights bother us, and the blue light from screens can trigger or exacerbate an attack for many.
M is for menstrual migraine, a type of migraine associated with falling levels of oestrogen. Studies show that 'migraine is most likely to occur in the two days leading up to a period and the first three days of a period. This type of migraine is thought to affect fewer than 10% of women' (The Migraine Trust).
M is for the Migraine Trust, which is an excellent source of information on migraine, including symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and lifestyle measures. Highly worth a look!
M is also for Migraine Shields, a brilliant range of migraine glasses that help block blue light that is bothersome for those with migraine.
Migraine Shields have kindly given my readers 20% off with the code throughthefibro
N is for nerve blocks. Great occipital nerve blocks are 'an injection of local anaesthetic and steroid around the nerves which supply the scalp. These nerves are located on the back of the head and the top of the neck' (National Migraine Centre).
N is also for neuro-otologist, a specialist doctor who is likely best placed to treat you if you have vestibular migraine.
O is for occipital neuralgia. This is 'a rare type of chronic headache disorder. It occurs when pain stems from the occipital region and spreads through the occipital nerves. The occipital nerves run from the top of your spinal cord to your scalp' (Healthline).
P is for prophylactic treatments (often known as preventatives). There are many such treatments now, ranging from oral medication (pills) to injectibles such as Botox and nerve blocks.
P is also for the postdrome stage of a migraine. Often also known as the 'migraine hangover', it is the final stage of migraine. The American Migraine Foundation describes that this stage can include an inability to concentrate, fatigue, depressed mood, euphoric mood or lack of comprehension. It doesn't happen for every person with migraine, or after every attack.
Q is for questions . . . To ask your headache / migraine doctor! Personally I suggest seeing a specialist if you are experiencing migraine attacks, and going in to your appointments with a degree of knowledge. You can look at helpful websites such as the Migraine Trust. This post on the next steps after a migraine diagnosis may also be helpful.
R is for relaxation, which can frustratingly be a migraine trigger for some. As the NHS describes, after a busy week you may find you get an attack on the weekend. Why? Well, it's 'because as the tension of the week subsides, your levels of stress hormones drop, which causes a rapid release of neurotransmitters (the brain's chemical messengers). These send out impulses to blood vessels to constrict and then dilate, which causes a headache' (NHS).
S is for sleep. So important in migraine, as often too much can cause an attack, and you guessed it, too little can cause an attack too. Sleep can also abort an attack for some with migraine. Have a read of the detailed post on sleep and migraine by the Migraine Trust, which also has helpful tips on sleep hygiene.
S is also for supplements. There are a few supplements that have evidence behind them for the management of migraine. The key ones are magnesium, B2 / riboflavin and CoQ10 (Migraine Trust). Always consult with a doctor before trying new supplements.
T is for triptans. Triptans are a common medication used to abort migraine attacks. There are a number of different triptans, and you may need to try a few before finding one that suits you.
U is for under-recognised and under-diagnosed. This is a huge topic, but many with migraine find it difficult to gain a proper diagnosis or a referral to a specialist neurologist if that is required. Issues with diagnosis seem much more difficult when it comes to more rare forms of migraine such as vestibular migraine.
V is for vestibular migraine, a more rare form of migraine. The Migraine Trust describes: 'Vestibular migraine (also referred to as migrainous vertigo, migraine-related dizziness, vestibular migraine or migraine with prominent vertigo) is a type of migraine where people experience a combination of vertigo, dizziness or balance problems with other migraine symptoms'.
V is also for vertigo, which can be a symptom of migraine. Not a fear of heights as many think it is, vertigo is a sensation of movement, whether it is spinning dizziness (external vertigo) or a sensation of swaying (internal vertigo) (Migraine Trust).
V is also for VeDA (Vestibular Disorder Association), which is a fantastic resource for those with vestibular migraine. It was, and still is, my go-to resource online for information on symptoms, treatments and so much more.
W is for weather. There is often a joke amongst those with migraine that we can sense a change in weather before it is forecast. As the NHS describes, 'pressure changes that cause weather changes are thought to trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain. This irritates nerves, leading to a headache'.
Yep, I tried very hard to think of an x for migraine, but only came up with x-ray. And you can't see a migraine on an x-ray as far as I know, so moving swiftly on to y . . .
Y is for yawning! This is actually a fairly common symptom prior to the main attack stage for many, and definitely one for me. It's a strange one, but it does alert me prepare myself with meds if needed, as well as drink more water, get my ice products ready and put my migraine glasses on too!
OK, so Z was always going to be a tough one for this A-Z on migraine, but I am going with zig-zag lines. I've only had visual disturbances from aura maybe ten times, but I get these zig-zag lines along with sparkling lights. It's a bit disconcerting to say the least but usually only lasts around half an hour. It's my cue to rest, and try and prepare for a migraine attack.
VeDA (Vestibular Disorder Association)
Don't forget to pin the post on your health boards!
Please follow the advice of your doctor as to all medical treatments, supplements and dietary choices, as set out in my disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, and this post, as well as all other posts on this blog, are for informational purposes only.