What is migraine disease? Unlike what you might think, migraine is not just a headache. It is a neurological disease with no cure and is still extremely stigmatized. Migraine consists of excruciating and disabling pain that usually presents on one side of the head but can also occur on both sides. Migraine is not just unbearable pain alone. It comes with nausea, vomiting, blurred vision (also known as aura), temporary blindness, dizziness, sensitivity to light, sound, smell and other symptoms.
Migraine is a severely disabling and incapacitating primary headache disorder, yet most people still have no idea what migraine is and how it affects its patients. According to disturbmenot.co, migraine causes impairment of daily activities costing the US more than $35 billion annually and almost 160 million working days a year. Migraine affects 39 million people in the United States and a billion people worldwide. In the United States, 18% of people with migraine are women, 6% are men, and 10% are children. Migraine fighters use twice the amount of medical resources and require more medications and visits to emergency departments.
We know that migraine affects more women than men but let’s look at some of the differences between them. Women seem to experience more comorbidities and psychological issues. According to one Harvard study, men living with migraine disease experience an increase in men’s heart attack and stroke risk. The study also reported that men with migraine disease could increase their chances of cardiovascular complications by 42%.
Men and women seem to have different triggers when it comes to migraine disease. While women’s triggers often involve hormonal changes, men’s triggers seem more to do with lifestyle choices and physical activity. A primary trigger for men is physical exertion ranging from walking upstairs to running a marathon. Some research shows this can be due to hypersensitive blood vessels that contract and dilate. Other triggers can include insomnia, dehydration, stress, low blood sugar, and food and drinks. Men are also less likely than women to seek treatment.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Charlie from Annapolis. Charlie is a business owner and stay-at-home dad. His migraine disease began about four years ago. His triggers are overworking, not getting enough sleep and lifting objects over his head. He experiences migraine attacks approximately twice a week. When his migraine is at its strongest, he can not work and is incapacitated. He spent about a year trying to rule out headaches due to allergies, foods, and other environmental factors. He has been diagnosed by his neurologist with chronic migraine with aura and occipital neuralgia. Charles is on multiple medications, including a calcium channel blocker, anti-epileptic, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor and a triptan. He knows that he would not be able to work a “normal” job due to his migraine.
Even though men are less likely to seek out professional medical treatment for migraine attacks, they still experience the same excruciating pain as women with migraine. If you are a man that experiences migraine attacks, please seek out professional treatment and diagnosis. Having migraine disease does not make you any less of a man. You can find many support groups for migraine, with many men experiencing the daily effects of this incurable neurological disorder.
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