Approximately 1 billion people worldwide suffer from migraines. Even though it’s the third most prevalent illness in the world, it still doesn’t have a cure.
“It’s not just in your head,” said Paula Dumas, founder and managing editor of MigraineAgain.com. “It’s not just a bad headache. It’s a multi-symptomatic disease that attacks people over and over and over again.”
Dumas is a co-host for the Migraine World Summit, where people can watch and listen to 36 world leading migraine experts speak about how to deal with migraines and prevent them more effectively. Access is free, and it takes place April 23-29 at migraineworldsummit.com.
According to Dumas, there is only one migraine specialist for every 85,000 people who suffer from migraines. This summit is the easiest way for people to have easy access to these specialists.
“One of the unfortunate things about migraines is that most people will spend more time in the waiting room waiting to see a doctor than that doctor has spent studying headache medicine,” Dumas said.
A need for things to be ‘very steady’
Dr. Matthews Gwynn, primary investigator at NeuroTrials Research in Sandy Springs, compared migraines to seizures and epilepsy in their suddenness.
“It’s a syndrome that affects the brain and other parts of the body,” Gwynn said. “It’s a paroxysmal disorder in most cases, which means it comes on suddenly and without warning for no reason, sort of like epilepsy.”
Multiple different triggers can lead to migraines. Some common ones are stress, fatigue, weather changes, strong light, smell, ingesting certain foods and hormonal cycles.
“Migraine brains like things to be very steady,” Dumas said.
Dumas, a migraine sufferer, found out that bright lights could be a trigger for her, so she now wears migraine glasses when she’s exposed to too much light in unavoidable situations.
She used to get migraines about 15 to 20 times a month, which actually qualifies for its own category of migraine: chronic migraines.
A study at NeuroTrials Research includes the use of Botox, a muscle relaxer that’s often used for cosmetic purposes. However, it’s being injected into people’s heads to prevent migraines by immobilizing nerves.
Attempting to still live life
“It’s really important to me for the migraines to not have my world,” said Suwanee resident Lisa Edmond, a patient in the study.
She’s been receiving Botox for approximately a year, and she only recently began to see significant results. About a month ago, her typical 15 to 20 migraines a month dropped to about one a week.
“They’re debilitating,” Edmond said. “If you don’t understand the medications and how to abort a migraine, you get a migraine, and it takes your whole day away from you.”
Edmond has gotten headaches her whole life, but she got her first migraine about 15 years ago. They progressed to the point where she started to make significant changes to her life to attempt to prevent them, such as quitting tennis because of heat exposure. She even gave up chocolate.
“I went 10 years without touching chocolate, thinking that was a trigger,” Edmond said, “and then one day my husband said to me, ‘You don’t eat chocolate, and you have a migraine almost every day of your life. Why don’t you try eating chocolate again?’”
She’s prescribed two medications, Imitrex and Amerge (naratriptan), to help combat migraines once she feels them beginning (she feels a pealike pressure behind her eye).
“Eighty percent of the time, I can abort it before it takes control,” Edmond said, “and I live my life and go to my job and take care of my kids. I can still do everything.”
36 speakers, 36 learning opportunities
Aspects of migraine prevention and remedies will be the most common themes at the summit.
One of the lecturers, Dr. Josh Turknett, will speak about diets and migraines.
“We’ve known for a long time that migraines can be triggered by certain things in the diet, but … there are ways of adjusting the diet that can make fundamental changes in your physiology and metabolism in ways that offer protection against migraines,” Turknett said.
Turknett is a practicing neurologist with DeKalb Neurology in Atlanta, and he’s also the author of “The Migraine Miracle,” which focuses on correlations between ancestral diets and migraine prevention.
Structured similarly to the paleo diet, Turknett’s research shows that eating like our ancient ancestors can help lessen migraine severity and frequency.
“There’s a range of foods that we were exposed to over the vast majority of our time on this planet, and we’re still most well adapted to dealing with those,” Turknett said. “What I’ve discovered is that when we start to eat things outside of that range, it’s when we start to increase the risk of migraines.”
Turknett is set to speak on April 26. Turknett, like most of the speakers, suffers from migraines himself.
“As migraine patients, we have struggled and juggled with migraines for years if not decades,” Dumas said. “In the absence of a cure, we need to help people around the world struggle less with this disease.”
Migraine World Summit
April 23-29. 9 a.m. April 23-28; 5 p.m. April 29. Free. Live stream is available at www.migraineworldsummit.com.