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Teen Migraines

I was diagnosed with chronic migraines when I was in the fifth grade. Since then, I’ve missed a total of over 100 school days because of the condition. I’ve missed best friend’s birthday parties. I had to quit my gymnastics team. I’ve stayed up all night before school on multiple occasions trying to cram weeks of missed assignments into one night. Migraines have been one of the most debilitating and exhausting conditions I could imagine.

Chronic migraines are a common occurrence when it comes to medical issues. Ranking in at the third most prevalent illness in the world and the sixth most disabling, 12% of the population suffers from them. When it comes to adolescents in particular, 10% of youth suffer from the condition. Why is this such a big deal? Migraines are far more than just a bad headache. 90% of people who suffer from migraines are unable to function when afflicted by one.

Mary Rose Sferes, a sophomore at Thornton Academy, had her first migraine in fourth grade. Since then, they’ve impacted all aspects of her life. “They make it so I can’t see correctly,” she stated, ”when I get migraines I can’t open my eyes at all because of the pain in my sinuses. I haven’t been able to study. I can’t look at electronics or anything like that because the screen and the light would hurt my eyes and my brain…When I do have migraines I can’t do anything so I can’t do my homework.” She then continued about how they’ve affected her social life, ”I can’t go out sometimes because of my migraines, and people invite me places and I can’t go anywhere because they’re so bad.”

There are two different major types of migraines: with aura and without. Aura migraines are less common, and are characterized by the telltale visual and neurological disturbances. With aura migraines, before the pain starts, the sufferer’s vision will start to ripple or disappear. This alone is incredibly disorienting, but in addition to this, aura migraines can be accompanied by loss of feeling, muscle weakness, trouble speaking, and confusion. These symptoms typically subside after an hour, and then the symptoms of a common migraine set in.

Common migraines are the variation without aura. The symptoms of a common migraine include — but are not limited to — mood changes, nausea, fatigue, and extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, and smell. The pain can be localized to one side of the head or both sides to the whole head. From what I personally have experienced, the pain is indescribable. Suffering from a migraine makes all sound and light unbearable for me and any amount of light will amplify the pain incredibly.

In my experience, migraines have lasted anywhere from 5 hours to days. When they first start, if it’s an aura migraine than this sort of ripple effect starts happening over my field of vision. It’s very difficult to describe. Everything kind of starts having these lines over it. Often times I’ll have small blind spots. The aura never lasts long for me, typically about half an hour. After the aura starts to subside, the pain sets in. It’s incredibly painful and gets worse exponentially when there’s a bright light or loud sounds. Obviously, there’s large amounts of both light and sound everywhere, so getting a migraine in public will make it so I have to stop whatever I’m doing and go home until it’s over.

As mentioned before, 90% of sufferers are unable to function when experiencing a migraine, and 10% of school aged adolescents suffer from them. So with schools cracking down on attendance, how does this affect that 10%?  It affects us tremendously. Statistics show that students with migraines miss twice as much school as students without migraines. Because of school attendance and missing work policies, this can lead teenagers afflicted with migraines to develop severe anxiety, depression, fatigue, and can induce panic attacks.

All in all, migraines in general and chronic migraines especially are incredibly painful, unpredictable, and difficult to deal with. A large number of people in today’s society deal with this medical condition on a daily basis. It would be incredible to have an awareness built to help everyone understand the struggles that this affliction causes.


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