There are many items we need in our Migraine arsenals if we’re to adequately combat Migraine disease and live as well as possible with it. Not least among them is education — education about Migraine disease itself as well as treatments, accommodations, coping, and more. We can’t call our doctors every time we have a Migraine attack, so we need to be well enough educated to make treatment decisions for ourselves when Migraine strikes.
Some areas we need to cover in our Migraine education:
What Migraine is and the changes in how the brain and central nervous function when a Migraine is triggered and during the Migraine attack: Understanding that Migraine is a genetic neurological disease and what’s going on in the brain and central nervous system during a Migraine helps make Migraine attacks less mysterious and frightening.
The type(s) of Migraine we have: A complete and accurate diagnosis of which type or types of Migraine we have is important. We need to learn about our Migraines because different forms of Migraine are treated differently. Some forms of Migraine can present symptoms that need to be monitored to be sure that they are all attributable to our Migraine attacks as opposed to a stroke or transient ischemic incident (TIA).
The phases of a Migraine attack and the potential symptoms: Knowing the phases of a Migraine attack and the potential symptoms help us in a couple of ways. Recognizing prodrome and aura symptoms lets us be prepared for the rest of the Migraine attack to strike. Prodrome is generally considered a bit early to treat, but some people have been successful in using their treatment during the aura phase. Since Migraine symptoms can change over time, knowing the potential symptoms can also be helpful. We should report new, especially severe, or frightening symptoms to our doctors.
Our Migraine treatments: It’s essential to understand our Migraine treatments. It’s vital to tell our doctors if we’re uncomfortable with treatments they prescribe and to ask any questions we have while we’re at our appointments. Certainly, we can look up information online later, but only our doctors can apply that information to us specifically as our medical history and all medications need to be considered.
How to work as treatment partners with our doctors: In good patient/doctor partnerships, our doctors outline the options, then we make decisions and choices together. Establishing this kind of relationship takes work and trust on both sides, but lead to better compliance with treatment recommendations and better outcomes. If your doctor doesn’t want to work in this fashion, maybe it’s time to consider a new doctor. Many of us do best with a true Migraine specialist. For information about Migraine specialists, see Why, How and Where to Find a Migraine Specialist.
How to be our own best advocate. Many of us probably don’t realize that we’re advocates, but we are. We can learn how to speak up for ourselves, what issues to question, and how to get the best results.
Where and how to seek more knowledge about Migraine:
Our doctors: Our doctors can be great sources of information. When visiting our doctors, it’s helpful to make a list of questions we want to ask and topics we want to discuss, leaving space between them for notes. Take one copy for yourself and one to give to your doctor. Giving our doctors our lists at the beginning of our appointments lets them know that we need some time with them. This is a great time to learn from our doctors.
Patient information with prescriptions: Each prescription should come with a patient information sheet. It’s helpful to keep these in case we want to refer to them later. They can be stored in a folder or notebook, in alphabetical order, to make the right one easy to locate.
Online information: There’s a tremendous amount of information about Migraine, treatments, and more online. That said, there’s also a good amount of it that’s outdated, incorrect, or commercially biased. When looking at information online, here are some things to look for:
o The date: How old is it? If it’s several years old, it may be outdated.
o Who wrote it: Reliable information should have the author’s name on it.
o Physician review: Information not written by a physician can be accurate, but it’s an extra point toward its credibility if it’s reviewed by a physician, preferably a Migraine specialist.
o Beware press releases, blog posts, and articles written to sell a product: Press releases about products and even some that are about medical practices can be commercially biased. If the release is selling a product, beware.
- Books, magazine articles, and other materials: Employ the same logic as above when deciding if it’s reliable material.
Former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once said, “The best prescription is knowledge.” This is one prescription that we can write for ourselves, one that will help us face the challenges of living with Migraine disease and improve our quality of life.
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Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.