Top 75 Migraine and Headache Questions, #63

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  • Full Question:
    I have suffered with migraines for years. My doctor has not been able to help me. I have seen a neurologist and had a CAT scan. They say that there is nothing wrong with my brain. That I am merely suffering from depression and that the migraines stem from that. My migraines get so bad that I go blind and see spots. My arm goes numb and the numbness travels up the arm, into the body and down to my legs and then goes away. One time the migraine affected my speech so much that I could not get the words out that I wanted to say. I have times of numbness and my body refuses to move in the way I want it to. Just yesterday I felt paralyzed. Usually my migraines are accompanied by a stomach ache. Can you help me determine what might be wrong? Thanks, Shannon.

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    Dear Shannon;

    Let's start out by getting a few facts out here:

    • Imaging studies such as CT and MRI usually come back "clear" or "normal" when you have Migraines.
    • There is NO diagnostic test that shows Migraine.
    • Migraines are not cause by depression. Period. Migraine is a genetic neurological disease. Migraineurs have overly excitable neurons in our brains. When a trigger is encountered, those neurons fire in a wave across the brain, starting a cascade of event involving several centers of the brain including the brainstem. The final common pathway involves dilation or swelling accompanied by inflammation of small arteries in the coverings of the brain. The headache of a Migraine attack, if there is one, is from sensory impulses transmitted by the nerves from these inflamed blood vessels and surrounding tissues transmitted to higher centers of the brain and experienced as pain.
    • It's not uncommon for Migraineurs to also have major depression (clinical depression), but they're comorbid diseases. That means that they occur together, but neither one causes the other.

    The very best advice we can offer is for you to find a doctor who knows what Migraine disease is and how to treat it. Especially give that you mention paralysis, it's important that you get an accurate diagnosis. There are different types of Migraine attacks, and some need to be treated differently than others. Find a doctor who knows Migraine and is willing to work with you, explain things to you, answer your questions.

    Good luck,
    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. If you have a question for this section of our site, please click HERE. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers here. No questions will be answered privately.

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Published On: April 07, 2007