JenE’s Migraine Mission: Migraine Danger

So why should you even care about the anatomy of a migraine or chronic migraines?

Migraines are dangerous.

Recently, USA Today published an article that quotes some scary research.  Chronic migraines are connected to increase risk of


brain lesions

heart attacks




Migraines can also affect your ability to think clearly and motor control.  During aura, some people experience “floaters” in their vision, tunnel vision, or negative scotomas (blank spots in vision). So, driving, or even walking, becomes that much more dangerous.

Some people even have sensory perception issues during aura or while having migraines.  They may experience Alice in Wonderland syndrome and feel like part of their body is smaller or larger than it’s supposed to be. Some people even have migraine-related hallucinations!

Migraines affect the entire body.  Research is showing that migraines are a result of “hyper-excitability in the brain.” More and more research is also showing that in some migraine sufferers the body’s MAO becomes compromised before or during a migraine, causing the release of too much or build up of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, along with other hormones.   During a migraine, your body senses that all stimuli is a threat, and accordingly increases your heart rate and blood flow.  During anatomy of a migraine, we saw how the blood vessels are constricting and dilating.  A LOT is going on in your vascular system during a migraine. No wonder you feel like throwing up and curling up into a little ball in the dark.

Why does it matter that your MAO might not be working as effeciently? Think of it as your body’s self-imposed (very low dose) MAO-I. MAO-Is are  a powerful class of anti-depressives.  When taking a MAOI, you cannot take certain medication or eat certain foods because of severe interactions.  MAOIs inhibit the catabolism of dietary amines (dopamine, antihistamines), namely tyramine.  Take a MAOI, ingest too much tyramine, and you could suffer from a hypertesive crisis.  Take a MAOI and tryptophan, and you could suffer from serotonin syndrome (too much serotonin).  Many migraine trigger foods and medications contain tyramine.  If you know that you are sensitive to amines, then you should talk to your doctor before taking any medication containing an amine or before being placed on a MAO-I.

The good news:  a hypertensive crisis and serotonin syndrome are mostly preventable by controlling what you put in your body.

I don’t want to frighten migraine sufferers.  The chance of heart attack or stroke simply from migraine is still pretty low.  What I hope the general public begins to see is that migraines aren’t just bad headaches or only suffered by high-stressed, neurotic women.  They can’t be fixed with therapy or stress management.  They are a symptom of a disorder that affects the entire body…the nervous and cardiovascular systems, hormones (the endocrine system).

Also, they aren’t always something you can just suffer through.  If you are in the aura or headache phase of a migraine it might not be safe for you to walk long distances or drive.  (In fact, the only car accident I’ve been in was during a bad migraine — I misjudged the distance between my car and a wall.  The wall was fine.  But — what if that had been a person!)

Stay safe and take care of yourselves!


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