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HeadWay, Issue #148 -- Know Your Symptoms, Know Your Body
November 21, 2016

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In this issue:

Know Your Symptoms, Know Your Body

Don't miss these recent posts...

Say what?! Trigger

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Know Your Symptoms, Know Your Body

When someone goes to the doctor complaining of terrible, frequent headaches, many doctors have a hard time coming up with a specific diagnosis. You would think that with something as pervasive as migraine and headache disorders, there would be clear, quick ways to get an accurate diagnosis.

Yes, part of the problem may be a lack of training on your doctor's part. Sadly, sometimes it's just laziness ("It's just stress").

But there is something that you can do to help your doctor help you. And that is - know your symptoms, and know your body.

This is not an easy assignment, and it's not a simple assignment, and it's not a quick assignment. But it can be key in determining what type of disease you actually have. What type of migraine? Is there an underlying illness? Is it another headache disorder?

You will need to gather information over time, and organize it so that you can share it with your doctor efficiently. Most doctors won't have time to hear an hour of speculations - gather the evidence, and give it to your doctor in short form.

The easy part - how frequent and how intense are your headaches, and how long do they last? Don't rely on your memory. Keep notes - as detailed as possible.

What about the other symptoms? Are there mental or emotional symptoms? Depression - temporary or ongoing? Do you ever have trouble remembering words? Trouble speaking? "Brain fog"?

What about physical symptoms? Do you experience weakness, or dizziness? A sore neck? Sensitive skin? Dry skin? Discomfort or pain during sex? Red eyes? Restlessness? Do you suffer from other disorders and/or diseases?

What about medications? How often do you take them, in what dosages? Do you take regular supplements?

Have you noticed anything that triggers your attacks or makes them worse? A time of the month or year? Lack of sleep? Certain foods? A day of the week?

Obviously the list can go on and on. And when you suffer from an extreme headache, you may just not think about the fact that you're also feeling pins and needles, or a sore arm. But regular symptoms can be major clues that will help you get better treatment.

To get started, use some of the links in this article to get you thinking.

This works best when you pay attention over time, and look for patterns. Even if you aren't able to share everything with your doctor, you can mention the top issues you notice on your next visit. And don't be put off if you feel your doctor doesn't take you seriously - keep observing, and keep taking notes. Search here to see if others have had your experience. It might make all the difference.

Bonus: A very useful resource for investigating "mystery" symptoms and getting a good diagnosis is the book What's Wrong With Me? by Lynn Dannheisser and Dr. Jerry Rosenbaum.

Don't miss these recent posts...

Say what?! Trigger

It may seem like a fine distinction - should you say "This food caused a migraine attack" or "This food gave me a migraine attack" or "This food triggered a migraine attack"? But it's actually an important distinction.

No one knows what causes migraine. No one knows why one person gets migraine attacks, and another person doesn't. We know part of the story, but not all of it.

A food may trigger an attack in someone with migraine, whereas for someone without migraine it may not be a problem at all.

That's why we use the word "trigger". It starts a chain reaction - but only when migraine disease is already present.

In other words, you shouldn't blame yourself too much if you don't know WHY you have migraine attacks - no one knows. It is useful to know your "triggers", but even knowing won't guarantee a migraine-free life for most people with migraine disease.

See the MedicineNet definition of trigger.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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