Migraine Headaches: What You Need to Know

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Bryan If you've had a migraine or know someone who suffers from the severe headaches you know how debilitating they can be.

Migraine affects both men and women, but it's predominantly a women's health issue.

Of the more than 36 million Americans afflicted with migraine, 27 million are women.

It may not be a life threatening condition, but new research shows some sufferers could be at an increased risk of stroke.

"I was go, go, go all the time and to have something like that set you back and you not know what it is was very scary," Lauren Poe said.

Lauren is one of the millions of women suffering from migraine headaches, but her condition is a bit more severe.

"About my sophomore year in high school I started having syncope with my migraines so I actually started fainting," Poe said.

Lauren is part of the 20-percent of migraine sufferers who get migraines with aura. She experiences Vasovagal Syncope, her blood pressure drops drastically and she faints before her migraine even begins.
Others suffering from Migraines with Aura experience other symptoms including seeing flashing lights or weakness.

"My vision actually goes away and it's like someone throws a sheet over your face and I can't see for about three to four seconds," Lauren said.

Janice Reed is also a migraine sufferer.

"I've always had headaches, but they seemed to get worse when I went through some major hormonal changes," Reed said.

Her vision became blurry, she was sensitive to light and nauseous.

"It was just really hard to function and be able to continue daily activities," Reed said.

Janice and Lauren have learned to live with their migraines. Janice manages them with prescription medication, while Lauren mainly with diet. Both made the decision to get the help they needed.

Kim Oas, is a nurse practitioner with St. Joseph Hospital. She also serves as the Director of Advanced Practice at St. Joseph Physician Associates.
Oas says getting help is the key.

"Don't ignore it, don't wait to see, treat it," Oas said.

That's because it could be something worse than a migraine, like a stroke.
Because the symptoms can be very similar.

"If you've never had any of those symptoms you need to evaluate that." Oas said.

Those include: numbness and weakness, trouble seeing, slurred or garbled speech, dizziness or a severe headache.

A new study shows women under the age of 35 with migraine with aura may be almost twice as likely to have a future stroke.

"These are young women that shouldn't be on oral contraceptives, if you smoke and have migraine with aura you raise your risk. If you are obese, hypertensive you up your risk," Oas said.

Migraine headaches are three times more likely in women than men, and shouldn't be ignored.

"We're strong we have to keep going but there's a time when need to learn that we need to take care of ourselves," Reed said.

"Really be aware and really listen to what your body is telling you and a simple headache might not be a simple headache," Poe said.

There are a lot of resources available for those wanting to learn more about the condition and how to get help.