The many faces of migraine
More than 500,000 Danes suffer from migraines, but there are no definitive answers as to what causes migraine and how the disorder can be treated. Often, the disorder is associated with an intense and unpleasant headache that mostly comes out of the blue. However, some get warnings, the so-called aura symptoms that can come out in several different ways.
Among other things, speech difficulties, memory loss, numbness and visual disturbances.
Some people who suffer from migraines seek out into a jungle of alternative treatment methods in an attempt to tame the migraine attacks. This is because medical science has no definitive cure and there is no guarantee that those affected will ever get rid of the disorder.
This is the story of people living with a debilitating disorder and of today's science trying to understand the mystique of migraines.
A robotic sound buzzes from the chair while Michael Jacobsen gets raised so he's in the right position to get a daith piercing. Over the past year, he has had more and more migraine attacks, and he hopes the new piercing will ease the pain so he can cut back on his medication usage. The holder of Pierce Artist Denmark, Michael Strauss, is ready to make a point measurement in the ear so that the needle is put in the right place. "It's about hitting the right spot, so the piercing just tickles the vagus nerve, that's what gives the effect," says Michael Strauss.
A colorful warning
Migraines are often associated with a very uncomfortable headache, which usually comes out of the blue. But some migraineurs get a little hint when an attack is underway.
Migraine with aura, can be translated into migraine with a warning. The warning comes in many forms. Some suffer from speech difficulties, memory loss, numbness in different parts of the body, and others get visual disturbances.
Migraines occur due to a lack of blood supply to an area of the brain. Depending on which area is not getting enough blood, it can cause various aura symptoms. For example, if it is in the area where the visual impressions are processed, it can cause visual disturbances.
Visual disturbances are the most common aura form, but only 20 percent of all migraineurs get aura symptoms, and twice as many women as men experience these aura symptoms.
Some get multiple visual disturbances one after the other, and some only get one. Some migraineurs have the same visual disturbances and others have their own unique light show, which plays out in front of them when an attack is underway.
Back in 2005, Jette Nielsen got a small electronic chip, at the size of an almond, inserted into her head, as the second migraine patient in the world. She has suffered from chronic migraine all her life, so when she was offered to get the chip that had proven effective on cluster headache patients, she said yes, even though the treatment was still only an experiment. When she gets an attack, she has to hold a remote control up against the cheek. It activates the chip, which forms a magnetic field directed to the site where the headache is formed. The hope of relieving the pain has been turned on and off many times for Jette Nielsen, which has resulted in a lot of frustration and some dark periods in her life. However, it also turned out that the treatment with the chip did not have much effect on people with migraines. But Jette Nielsen keeps the chip. “I've tried pretty much everything to find a treatment. One year my husband and I spent about 100,000 Danish kroner ($ 15000) to try all kinds of alternative treatments, but nothing worked. I have gradually realized that there is nothing to do, but I keep the chip. Maybe someone will develop a system in the future that will make it work, ”says Jette Nielsen.