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16 Side Effects of Migraine I've Experienced

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Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health or diagnoses, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Most people don’t realize how migraines truly affect people. Most people don’t realize that 37 million Americans have migraines. That’s 13 percent of adults, and 18 percent of women compared to 6 percent of men. Migraines occur most often in people aged 35 to 55. The average monthly costs for migraineurs is $145 a month!

graphic with four pictures showing how different people perceive someone with migraine

The following effects of migraines are some of the most common and very well-known in the migraine community. Many people I have spoken with from my support groups have these as well.

These are not all the side effects. Unfortunately for many of us, we have every single one of these. There’s nothing we can do other than never lose hope and pray that something will one day help us from having this pain day in and day out. Please do not judge someone with migraines. You don’t understand what they are going through with the pain and all of the side effects.

'do not mock a pain that you haven't endured'

1. Staying in bed.    

It doesn’t sound as much fun as it should be. When you have severe throbbing and can’t even open your eyes, the only thing to do is stay in bed. You may feel nauseous, everything is spinning and you can’t stand the light. It’s a hard day because you miss work which means you lose money which isn’t good, especially for us migraineurs.

2. Canceling plans.     

Trust me on this one, we hate doing this! It’s not fun telling your family or friends you can’t do something because the pain has taken over yet again. It’s awful. You look forward to going out or doing something then bam, your brain says “good try.” You try to plan what to do and when you can do something based on your pain because you don’t want to cancel again.

3. Relationships.      

Yes, you read that right. Many people may lose someone they love and care about due to the migraines. For example, myself. I’m thankful to be married and very happy with my husband. Does he understand how bad my migraines are and how they affect me? No, but he’s trying. He’s always there when I need something. Don’t let that fool you though. We don’t go out like we used to because of my pain. We still do things and I pay for it later by being in bed in severe pain. We have our fights because of my pain which spikes up my depression and anxiety to unbelievable levels. I’ve lost many friends because I got tired of dealing with the blame game and how I “must make the pain so bad,” how it’s “just a headache,” how it “can’t be that bad” and much more. My best advice to someone who loves and cares for someone who struggles with migraines, regardless if they’re your friend, family or a partner, is to give them some slack. Be there for them even if you can’t do anything for them during an attack. Just saying “I’m here and I won’t leave until the pain is gone” means a lot.


4. Doctors, doctors, doctors.           

This is probably one of the worst! First you go and see your PCP like most people. After your PCP says there’s nothing they can do, they refer you to a neurologist. You go to them and it’s either a complete miss or a huge blessing. From talking to many in my support group for migraines, on average people seem to see about four neurologists until they find one that’s great. If you have a good neurologist, now they might want you to see an ENT doctor, a cardiologist, a psychotherapist and maybe even more.

5. Pill after pill after pill.       

Awful. You can feel like a lab rat. Your doctor continues to try out different medications. You think you’re on a good one because it takes the pain away, but nope! The side effects turn out to be worse than the pain you were already in. You continue to have faith in your doctor to find something, but at one point or another you may start to lose hope, yet you somehow gain it again.

6. Depression and anxiety.      

I can’t explain how true this is! All that you gained in your life before the pain now seems to be disappearing due to the pain. It’s depressing because there’s no cure. Yes, something may work for you, but not always for someone else. You may just have to try out different treatments for a few years. Hopefully the pain disappears and never comes back. The anxiety then kicks in. About 50 percent of migraineurs struggle with anxiety. You may fear doing anything or everything, worried it could trigger your pain and send you spiraling down into a hole.

8. Your five senses.           

Oh yes, whether you’ve noticed or not, it often does affect your five senses. Sight: You can have aura where you see different shapes and lines before your migraine strikes. During your migraine you can even have double vision or none at all. Smell: A huge trigger for many migraineurs. A strong scent can easily send someone over the edge and into bed. Touch: You wouldn’t think this would be affected by a migraine, but it can be. Anything from just brushing your hair to a light gentle touch can feel like someone is trying to see how much pain it can cause. Taste: It can be from the pain or from a medicine – your taste may always feel off. A certain taste can then bring up the pain. Hearing: Sounds are another huge trigger for many migraineurs. Hearing someone honk a horn to hearing a dog bark or just hearing someone talk can tell your brain to start up the pain again.

9. Strange symptoms. 

There are so many, where to start?! The stroke-like symptoms are probably one of the worst. Hot flashes come next. The confusion and memories fading is definitely the most upsetting and depressing one for me. Jaw lock is painful yet tolerable, just very annoying. The random cramping that comes with the pain where it feels like you’re in labor is without a doubt horrid. My oh so favorite one? Passing out at any given time and any given place. That is without a doubt the worst! I literally feel like I’m dying.

10. Sleeping.   

Sounds great, right? It’s not. You would think sleeping would help the pain, right? That’s not always the case. Some people wake up with the pain even worse. Studies show that more than half of migraineurs are triggered by sleep disturbance, including anything from sleep apnea to insomnia.

11. Stress.

Stress is another main trigger and cause of migraines for me. Stress, whether good or bad, does not help with migraines. It, without a doubt, makes them worse.

12. Diet and exercise.  

It’s not as easy as it sounds. You have to be careful of what you eat. You have to make sure not to push yourself too much with exercising. Always make sure you’re drinking water.

13. Your gut. 

There are many issues that can stem from or be caused by migraines. Your bowel movements can be worse, from diarrhea to constipation, or even digestion issues. So now, besides all the effects migraines already have, you may be running to the bathroom a lot more. I am just oh so lucky to have diarrhea every time either before a migraine or during one.

14. Stroke and seizures.                 

I wish more people understood this! Yes, you can have a stroke. The worst part about this is that you can have stroke-like symptoms during a migraine which can make it harder to tell if you’re having one. Migraines can also trigger seizures. Most neurologists, if they’re good, will test you to see if you’re prone to seizures.

15. Education.            

This is definitely a hard one. Whether you’re in middle school, high school or college, migraines can affect your education. All the lights, sounds and just being around people can irritate some. I know for me it was the lights, sounds, passing out randomly and just being there that would cause my migraines. Let’s say you’re doing online schooling – now you have to worry about the computer screen hurting your head.

16. Vertigo.

In my opinion, this is one of the worst. Vertigo has many symptoms. It can be imbalance, dizziness, nausea, feeling like you’re spinning, rocking or falling, pressure in your ears and several other things. You can be lying down and you continue to still have this feeling. It’s without a doubt horrible. Every time I have had my “pass out” issue, I have had vertigo. It’s not a fun feeling and especially because there’s nothing anyone can do for you. You have to just let it pass.

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Originally published: July 26, 2017
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