1/28/08 #8 - Can stress from loss cause a chronic daily headache or transformed Migraine?

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  • Full Question:
    I would like to know if stress from loss (bereavement: loss of father) can cause a chronic daily headache or transformed migraine. I did read your answer stating that clinical depression could not cause a migraine, but was a codisease. For 16 full months each day, my 14 year old daughter has had pain mostly on her left temple region that is pounding and made worse sunlight or loud noises. The pain keeps her from activities/school some of the time. She gets black spots or dizziness that affect her vision every 40 minutes or so lasting for a few seconds. Other symptoms include occasional eye pain and dizziness and nausea/vomiting. She has had MRIs, a CT scan, and a lumbar puncture as well as many blood tests. She has been seeing a pediatric neurologist who has prescribed a few triptans as well as 8-10 different preventative medicines. She has also tried biofeedback, acupuncture and limited counseling. I think our pediatric neurologist has used up her bag of tricks, so we definitely plan to schedule a visit with a migraine specialist. I am not sure if it can be adult or pediatric though? We also plan to fully follow up with counseling services, but can this headache be stopped with medications? Thank you, Cindy.

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    Dear Cindy;


    Stress can certainly be a trigger for tension-type headache, and tension-type headaches can trigger Migraine attacks. Whether stress is a true Migraine trigger or not is a point of debate among even the experts. Some say yes; others say no, it's an aggravating factor, but not a trigger.


    For more information on this, please see Is Stress a Migraine Trigger?


    There are a couple of other points for you to consider -- You said she'd tried 8 - 10 different preventive medications in 16 months. 16 months is long enough to give only about half that many medications a fair trial. Many medications must be used for about three months to know if they're really having any impact.


    Also, medication overuse is a factor in 80% of transformed Migraine cases. How many days a week does your daughter use triptans? Pain medications? You can find more information on this in Medication Overuse Headache: When the Remedy Backfires.


    Neurologists aren't necessarily Migraine specialists, so consulting a specialist is an excellent idea. There's a link below to our directory of patient recommended specialists. At your daughter's age, whether she should see a pediatric specialist is a good question, and the answer really depends on how the specialist works. Some "regular" specialists will gladly treat adolescents.


    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert


    If you need to find a headache and Migraine specialist, please see our listing of patient recommended specialists.


    Another good source of information and support is our forum. To post to the forum, you'll need to register, even if you're already registered on the main section of our site. You can use the same email address and password for both registrations.


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    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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    © Teri Robert and J.C. Krusz, 2007.

    Last updated January 28, 2008.

Published On: January 28, 2008