20 year Migraine sufferer, many triggers, very sensitive, please help?

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  • Full Question:

    I'm 40-year old female. I really need help, suffering from debilitating migraines since 20 years. I'm super-hyper-sensitive.


    These all act as my TRIGGERS:

    1. SOUND - even a low sound of tap water; second hand clicking; bird chirping; high sound of traffic noise, horns, conversations, etc.
    2. LIGHT - even a small amount of sunlight entering the house even through slit of curtains, really facing the sun, etc
    3. HUNGER - have to keep eating every couple of hours.
    4. SLEEP - not just duration but if I get up at 6 am (even if I sleep for 7-8 hrs) instead of 7am(which is my best time as per personal internal clock) migraine starts.
    5. STRESS - normal day to day life also
    6. EXERTION - even slight
    7. TEXTURE - cloth I wear has to be light, cottons, smoothe, no laces, etc.
    8. CLIMATE - slight hot or cold.
    9. SMELL - the slightest sense of smell, e.g. flowers, washing powders, talc, perfumes, etc
    10. TRAVEL - all triggers activated.
    11. EMOTIONAL - excitement or crying, can't laugh, cry, talk, or enjoy.
    12. Wet hair.
    13. Social gatherings.
    14. Talking for some time continuously or talking slightly loud( I am a teacher and have to talk)

    On a scale of 10(0-low to 10-high), most of the days ,its never less than 8 and often it is 10.

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    Often 15-20 days per month. I just become bed-ridden and in deep pain. Cant function and do anything.

    Migraine for me is not just debilitating and paralyzing. In fact, I DON'T HAVE A LIFE. I love the sensitive side of my personality, but not the migraines associated due to it. Please help me. no name.


    Full Answer:

    Dear Migraineur;


    Let's look at your triggers first. Some of them may be avoidable, and there are sometimes ways to lessen the impact of triggers that aren't avoidable...

    • Lights - Have you seen an ophthalmologist to see if there's a reason other than Migraine that causes you to be exceptionally sensitive to light? Consider checking out some of the special glasses with FL-41 lenses to help Migraineurs with light issues. See TheraSpecs for Migraine Light Sensitivity: A Review and Migraine Glasses from AxonOptics - A Review.
    • Hunger - This can happen. It would be a good idea to check with your doctor to be sure you don't have hypoglycemia or a form of diabetes. If not, then you may be one of those people who have to have regular snacks.
    • Sleep - Many of us have to follow a regular schedule of getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, including weekends and holidays. Take a look at this video - Migraines, Headaches, and Sleep.
    • Stress - There's still some controversy, but we hate to see anyone accept that stress is a trigger without at least trying to see if they encounter triggers during stressful times that they either don't encounter at other times or they're only triggers when the body is stressed. The International Headache Society has removed stress from their list of Migraine triggers and put it on their list of exacerbating factors -- things that make us more susceptible to our triggers. Many people have sworn stress was a trigger for them until they kept a very detailed diary for a few months. More information in Is Stress a Migraine Trigger?. We hope you'll thoroughly investigate this as we think we do ourselves a real disservice by thinking stress is a trigger for us and not looking closely for other triggers during stressful times.
    • Texture - I may well be that your clothing textures aren't the trigger, but a Migraine symptom that occurs early in your Migraines. This is called allodynia, which is when an ordinarily painless stimulus is experienced as being painful.
    • Emotional - Migraine triggers are physiological, NOT emotional. There are physical reasons why crying, talking loudly or being a crowd of talking people are triggers. Those reasons aren't fully understood yet, but these things bring about a physical reaction.

    As for the sensitive side of your personality, it's not really relevant to your Migraines other than the possible physical triggers such as crying or shouting. The old theories of a "Migraine personality," are way outdated.


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    You didn't mention how often you take acute medications during a Migraine, but you need to be aware of the possibility of medication overuse headache contributing to your issues. Taking Migraine abortive meds such as the triptans or ergotamines or any kind of pain med (even simple over-the-counter products such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.) more than two or three days a week can make matters worse by causing medication overuse headache (MOH), aka rebound. See Medication Overuse Headache - When the Remedy Backfires for more information on this.


    We're happy to have this discussion with you and offer you information that you can also discuss with your doctor. Beyond that, the help you need must come from a doctor who can review your personal and family medical history with you, discuss your symptoms with you, and examine you in person. If your doctor isn't able to help you, it may well be time to consult a Migraine and headache specialist. It’s important to note that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine and headache specialists. Take a look at the article Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? If you need help finding a Migraine specialist, check the Find a Health Care Specialist on the ACHE web site.


    Thanks for your question,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert




    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and  Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and  Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.


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    Last updated March 7, 2014.

Published On: March 10, 2014