Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pediatric and Adolescent Migraines - they're a real thing

If I had to point to a single part of my childhood which I would call the pivotal aspect that really influenced my entire life, I know what I would choose:

The lack of recognition and medical information on pediatric migraine.

That was huge. In the mid-1990's to the beginning of the 2000's, when I was first developing chronic, yet episodic migraine, and then when those migraines became intractable at age 12, there was little to no serious medical research readily available. My pediatrician was at a complete loss and I was bounced from a few specialists, including an ENT, a physical therapist, and a pediatric neurologist until I was summarily dumped in the lap of a neurologist who had almost no experience with early adolescents. My migraines were considered serious enough to garner his attention, however, and I have continued to see Dr. B for over 15 years now.

It was even more of a fight for me to get any respect from a lot of the people around me when I tried to explain my migraines. There was a belief that kids couldn't get migraines. That we didn't feel chronic pain. That frustrated and hurt me at a tremendously deep level. I was dismissed as a malingerer. It was said I was just asking for attention. "Everybody" knew there was nothing actually wrong, and if just a little headache hurt me that much, I needed to learn to toughen up. The judgement from people whose good opinion I would want, and who cast those kinds of cruel accusations at my developing ego did a huge number on me.

After a while, however, I realized; no, they were wrong and I was right. There really was something wrong in my brain, and that the migraines were real. Also, there was an incredibly important medical fact that I could hold onto; a piece of reality when the world was calling me a fake.

 There is a difference between a migraine and a headache.

A headache is a symptom
A migraine is a syndrome

Frequently, still, I've heard headache and migraine used interchangeably. This frustrates me to no end for two reasons.
1. It continues to put an entire medical condition at the same level as a single physical sensation.
2. There forms a mental one-to-one equation of a migraine only being a headache. That migraine, a complex neurological condition that is still not fully understood can only somehow be shown as a headache, and nothing else.

That's so not true. Fortunately now, that myth is being dispelled. The Diamond Headache Clinic has recently published an informational presentation, focusing on pediatric and adolescent migraine, explaining the many different types of migraines that there are, the various symptoms that can come with each type, and also what sort of information and treatments there are for sufferers.

Slide presentation provided by Diamond Headache Clinic.

I seriously wish that this type of medical information's availability had been around when I was that age. I applaud the Diamond Headache Clinic for pulling this presentation together and getting it out there to the people who need it most.
 My greatest hope is that at least a few children and their families can start to learn about their migraines and how to best go forward so that their life can be an easier one.


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