Dubai, UAE: Vicky suffers from agonising migraine from time to time and says she shuts herself in her bedroom in the dark, hoping it will go away.
The PR consultant says she knows what triggers these bad headaches and that they would sometimes come on immediately after she nibbled on some cheese.
“The severe pain makes me feel nauseous,” she says, and she finds there is no relief even after she gulps down a couple of pain-killers.
Vicky is not the only one who suffers from such severe migraine.
“Migraine is very common in the UAE,” says Dr Gunther Edgar Wihl, consultant neurologist and stroke physician at The City Hospital, Dubai.
According to him, 80 per cent of the patients who come to his clinic say they suffer from headache. “At least 75 per cent of these suffer from migraine,” he says. “It seems to be more common than in Europe,” he opines, blaming the unhealthy lifestyle of the people here.
“People work long hours, feel stressed, they do not get enough sleep and their diet is unhealthy. They are stressed at work or in their private life, or both sometimes. Some drink coffee and get a migraine and others with migraine crave coffee,” he shrugs.
When it comes to migraines, different people have different triggers. From red wine to fruits and even some vegetables, migraines can occur with many foods. While stressed-out people often experience strong headaches, a migraine is an industrial-strength headache that makes the sufferer feel as if someone has clamped on a tight iron ring around their head that its squeezing their head to bursting by the second.
Migraine is an intense pain and women seem to suffer more from this pulsating pain.
Vineeta, an Indian expatriate teacher, says she keeps away from extreme light during her migraine attacks. “The pain seems to reduce by sunset. It immobilises me completely, I cannot even open my eyes,” she says. “I would often think that maybe it was the pillow or the way my neck was crooked when I slept. But sometimes even a crowded place would trigger off the migraine attack. At times I felt it was because I had eaten something sweet made with refined sugar,” she says. Eventually,
Vineeta tried treating her condition with ayurvedic herbal medicine and it helped to a great extent.
Doctor Wihl says migraines occur also because many people do not eat properly, skip breakfast in their rush to get to work and are therefore depleted and dehydrated first ting in the morning when actually their bodies need to be refreshed and recharged. “Many expatriates are not used to the extreme hot climate here and find it difficult to achieve a healthy lifestyle.”
A neurological condition, migraine is more prevalent among women due to hormonal changes. Some women get it during puberty or during their monthly cycle. “Its severity diminishes during pregnancy for some. There is usually a family history (of migraine) in those who are more prone to it,” he says. “We can’t say it occurs only because of this or that factor.”
In general terms, a migraine is a neurological condition that is common to various genetic and ethnic backgrounds and not restricted to certain cultures, says Dr Wihl.
The most important thing is to get the diagnosis right to begin with, he says. “This is may sound strange, but not everyone who seems to have a migraine has a migraine,” says the doctor. “Sometimes simple advice on lifestyle changes such as asking a patient to simply switch off the mobile phone at night, helps. Sometimes taking a Panadol helps, for others it does not.”
Many patients already would have identified the triggers for their migraine, according to him.
When assessing the migraine patterns and potential in a patient, Dr Wihl says it is important to go through the history (of the migraine) with the patient. “I would ask the patient to keep a headache diary, log the time it occurs.”
Migraine, he says, presents signs suggestive of a stroke, due to the constriction of the blood vessels. There is speech disturbance as in a stroke, numbness and tingling feeling, visual symptoms, and then because of the dilation of the blood vessels, the pain begins.
One reason why migraine occurs, he says, is due to the neuro-physiological changes in the cortex, in the back of brain. These send waves of electricity to the front, which in turn triggers changes in blood flow to the brain. Despite such seemingly unreachable parts of the human brain circuitry that has its own reasons for going haywire at times, Dr Wihl says there is a lot modern medicine and medical knowledge can do to control migraine. Unlike what most people believe, migraine is a treatable condition and there are medications which are effective in controlling it.
© Gulf NewsSep 2012