Almost 30 million Americans suffer from migraines — severe, recurring headaches that may occur along with symptoms of nausea, light sensitivity or weakness. In today's Patient Voices segment, Karen Barrow, a producer with The New York Times, speaks to six men and women who share the challenges of living with migraines.
Some of them expressed frustration at the lack of understanding about the severity of migraine pain.
"A migraine for some people has become almost a generic term for headache," said Skip Masland, 56, of Casselberry, Fla. "I think to myself, they have no idea what a migraine is."
Vickie Martin, 49, of Mason, Ohio, learned that her migraines were tied to her menstrual cycle. After years of suffering, Ms. Martin discovered she had uterine fibroids and an ovarian cyst. After a full hysterectomy to remove them, her migraines have significantly declined.
"It's really difficult to function when you're in that much pain or you're that dizzy or you're that nauseous," she said. "In all truthfulness, I felt like I was gutting it out alone. I didn't personally know anybody else who was down for the count quite as much as I was."
She added, "It was almost like I was disabled."
William Carr, 51, Bartlesville, Okla., was suffering migraines every few days. He underwent an experimental treatment in which a neurostimulator was implanted to send electrical impulses to his spine to thwart the migraine pain. The treatment has helped, and now he suffers migraines about every 10 days.
"The common phrase is, 'Oh, you have a headache,'" Mr. Carr said. "Yes, migraines are headaches, but if you've never experienced one you can't understand. When you have migraines, it hurts to walk. Light hurts. Many people, if they have not had personal experience with it, they kind of look at you like you're faking, that you're just trying to get out of doing something."
To hear more, listen to all the Voices of Migraine by clicking this link.