One of the most misunderstood and overlooked issues with Migraines is this...
Migraines can and do kill!
I've seen people say, "Yes, I know Migraines can be painful, but come on, a Migraine never killed anyone. There's even a psychologist I know who tells patients that Migraines don't kill because she doesn't want to upset or panic them.
Today, it's time to state the sad truth that Migraines can and do kill. It's not the Migraine attack itself that can kill, but that doesn't make the deaths any less attributable to Migraine disease and Migraine attacks.
Possibly the least direct impact Migraine has on life and death is that it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease. Greater than 1400 more US women with Migraine with aura
die annually from cardiovascular diseases compared to women who do not have Migraine.*
Migraines can also precipitate Migrainous strokes, which can be fatal. I've know this to happen with more than one Migraineur I knew, including a young woman who had a second Migrainous stroke just days before her 21st birthday, and the second one was fatal.
Possibly the saddest and most needless of all, Migraine can and does put people to the point of suicide. Based on a sample of Americans, suicide attempts are three times more likely in individuals with migraine with aura compared to those with no migraine, whether or not major depression is also present.*
This weekend, a bright young woman took her life because she'd lost hope of improvement in her Chronic Migraines. In my book, Migraines killed this young woman. Not a doubt in my mind.
To my fellow Migraineurs - Please, please, please don't ever give up. Keep partnering with your doctor to explore Migraine preventive / management options. If your doctor is out of ideas, I'll work to help you find one who isn't.
To doctors and other health care professionals - Please tell your patients the truth. Think about it this way - If you tell them that Migraine can't kill and they discover that it can, what can that do to their trust in you and other health care professionals?
I don't want to frighten people, but it's important that we recognize that Migraine and it's impact can indeed kill. If we don't admit this and talk about it, how can we work to keep it from happening?
Over the weekend, a 22-year-old young woman took her life because she'd lost hope of her chronic Migraines ever getting better. Migraine disease took this young woman's life. We MUST recognize this issue and endeavor to prevent these tragedies.
* Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. "Fact Sheet." 2010.
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© Teri Robert, 2013
Last updated June 10, 2013.